When we talk about buying a new smartphone, the first couple of brands that come to mind would include Xiaomi and Realme. Over the past 3-4 years, Xiaomi has established itself as the go-to brand for consumers, and is now the top-selling smartphone brand in India. While Apple and Samsung continue to dominate the premium smartphone segment, it is the Chinese brands that continue to surge ahead, enjoying a lion’s share of the smartphone market in the country.
In the first quarter of 2020, four Chinese smartphone brands accounted for as much as 73 percent of combined market share, with Xiaomi leading the pack. The other three Chinese brands were Vivo, Realme and OPPO, while Samsung slipped to third place, with 16 percent of market share. Talking about the number of smartphone units, India is currently the second-largest smartphone market in the world, ahead of the United States and only behind China.
In 2019, around 158 million smartphone units were shipped to India, out of which around 113 million units were shipped by Chinese smartphone manufacturers.
Why are Chinese Brands Surging Ahead of the Rest?
Not too long ago, Lenovo was the only Chinese smartphone brand that was providing affordable smartphones in the country. However, things have changed dramatically over the last 4-5 years, and today, Chinese brands are dominating the smartphone industry.
There was a time when top-of-the-line features and specifications were only made available to premium smartphone models. Apple and Samsung in particular started producing eye-catching models with higher RAM size, more storage capacity, better cameras and all-round better performance. However, Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 3 in 2016 arguably changed the smartphone landscape, as the brand offered a feature-rich smartphone at a pocket-friendly price, unlike the iPhones or Samsung’s flagship models.
Since then, other Chinese brands such as Vivo and Realme have also started offering feature-rich smartphones at budget-friendly prices. For instance, the Vivo Y93, considered by many to be the best Vivo phone under 10000 boasts impressive features such as a dual-rear camera setup, 3GB RAM and the fast Helio P22 Octa-core processor.
Lack of Domestic Manufacturers
One of the major reasons why Chinese smartphone brands such as Vivo, OPPO and Realme have made such a massive impact, is due to the fact that there is a lack of competition when it comes to domestic smartphone manufacturers. While Micromax, Lava, Intex and Karbonn initially showed promise, they haven’t been able to provide smartphones that lived up to the consumers’ expectations. Furthermore, as per Counterpoint research, brands belonging to Transsion Group, such as Infinix and Tecno reached their highest-ever market share during the first quarter of 2020, registering 78 percent year-on-year growth.
This highlights the existing chasm between Chinese smartphone brands and their Indian counterparts, and underlines the need for greater investment and innovation by domestic manufacturers.
Today, smartphones are available for every budget. Catering mainly to the budget and mid-range segments, smartphone brands are offering phones at affordable prices. Xiaomi and Realme in particular have gained a strong foothold over the mid-range segment in the country, by offering smartphone models like Redmi 6 Pro, considered to be the best Mi phone under 10000, and Realme C2 at pocket-friendly prices. Due to their affordability these phones are always in demand in the market.
When it comes to premium smartphones, consumers generally consider buying the latest iPhone, or Samsung’s latest flagship phone. Other brands like OnePlus are also focusing on providing impressive feature-rich smartphones, but they are only made available to high-end consumers.
Thus, if one wants to find a suitable alternative to smartphones being offered by the likes of Xiaomi and Realme, it would only be at a higher price point. While Asus made a strong impression in 2018 with their Zenfone smartphones, the brand hasn’t offered many budget-friendly alternatives over the past two years. Furthermore, with the new 18 percent GST rate on smartphones, the models have become more expensive, which has made it more difficult for non-Chinese manufacturers like Samsung and LG to cater to the mid-range segment.