In recent past, we have seen more smartphone players coming in the Indian market such as Chinese electronic major iVoomi and China’s Transsion Holdings’ Tecno, which also owns the ‘itel’ brand. The latest entry to the club is an Indian brand called ‘Mafe’, owned by Saawariya Impex Pvt Ltd. Founded in 2013, the company claims to have more than 400 distributors across the country making its brand presence felt in 14000 plus retails points. Not just that, it is assuring quality after sales service with already established 650 service centres across the country.
India is a huge market and as far as smartphone users go, there is still a large consumer base yet to be tapped, especially when 4G penetration is experiencing a rapid growth. India’s homegrown smartphone markers, who had around 40 per cent market share for a good part of 2016, which included Intex and Micromax, crumbled to a mere 13.5 per cent in 2017, according to the latest data from IDC.
While the Chinese smartphone market growth may be slowing down due to market saturation, India’s smartphone market is certainly on the rise for now. Recently, market research firm Counterpoint revealed India crossed over 300 million smartphone user base mark in Q4, 2016. Given that we have a population of over 1.3 billion in the country, there is still enormous scope for new players.
Chinese smartphone makers are on a roll in India as far as shipments are concerned for the first quarter of 2017. In Q1 of calendar year 2017, smartphone shipments in India registered a growth of 15 per cent annually, reaching about 29 million units in number. According to a recent report from International Data Corporation (IDC), Chinese smartphone makers shipped 51.4 per cent of the total volume to India in Q1 2017, which is about 142 per cent year-on-year growth and quarterly growth of about 16.9 per cent. Much of it is due to the lackluster performance of Indian brands.
So what do these new brands offer?
More number of brands means more number of options for buyers, and new smartphone brands are mainly going after those local markets that are yet to be tapped by popular Chinese smartphone players. If you have noticed the trend, all Chinese brands have mostly focused on online sales with small numbers, it is now in the recent past these brands have considered going offline.
But with the new brands, their prime focus appears to be only offline and remote areas where people would want to buy their first smartphone. For instance, Tecno mobiles said during the launch that it is only focusing on the offline market, and will initially launch smartphones in three states – Punjab, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. The company plans to sell these devices through 129 distributors in these states, and has established more than 10,000 touch points.
What is the USP?
The unique selling point for any new brand in India is the ‘price’. The more affordable a smartphone compared to its competition, the more eyeball it attracts. For example, iVoomi in April launched Me 1+ at Rs 4,999. The smartphone offers dual-SIM 4G VoLTE, 2GB of RAM, 5-inch HD display, 16GB of internal storage, 3000mAh battery, 8MP and 5MP cameras.
Similarly, the homegrown Mafe’s latest affordable 4G VoLTE smartphone, M820, highlights Android 7.0 Nougat, quad-core MediaTek processor along with 2GB of RAM, 8MP and 5MP cameras for Rs 6,899 in offline market.
But it is not only about cheap smartphones. Even OnePlus’ unique selling point was its affordability for flagship-like configuration in a smartphone. When it comes down to that level, any brand which gets the mass appeal and affordable price that fits the pocket is more likely to get a pick.
But what are the challenges for new brands?
The Indian consumer can be very demanding, and keeping up with their expectations is difficult for any smartphone company. When it comes to consumers, the brand name does matter a lot. An educated consumer may not be receptive because it is a new brand, but a buyer in rural area may just look at the design, specs, and affordability over the name. Having said that, with the big brand name comes the assurance of customer service, and that is one area, where a new brand cannot always convince a consumer, especially in early days. Companies like Xiaomi have built the network over a period of time, and for them, word-of-mouth has been more effective than big branding or marketing.