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Chinese phones mute Indian brands

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Once popular across smartphone users, homegrown Indian companies have lost out in the race to Chinese brands, which today account for six out of every 10 devices sold in the country. 

Indian brands such as Micromax, Karbonn, Lava and Intex – which used to lord over the burgeoning smartphone market till just four years ago – are just a pale shadow of their dominant self, finishing 2018 with a single-digit share against 43% recorded in 2015.

Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, OnePlus have been witnessing massive growth as they introduced new models, packed them with latest features, and backed it up with aggressive pricing. 

Having harnessed the online sales channels through an intelligent ‘flash sales’ mode to create a buzz around their highly affordable devices, the companies have now started to target the offline – or brick-and-mortar – market through ‘Made in India’ devices, even unsettling Korean behemoth Samsung from the top position in the process.

The exception to this sorry state of affairs of Indian brands has been Reliance Jio, but only in features phones, which are mostly bundled with its mobile telecom services. Jio dominates feature phones market with a share of nearly 40%. Second-ranked Samsung is estimated to have a share of 12%.

So, what led to this fall of Indian brands? “The Chinese brands had been very aggressive from the very beginning. They were very strong when the transition from 3G to 4G devices was happening,” says Tarun Pathak, associate director at Counterpoint Research. “Indian brands – such as Micromax – were busy clearing large pile-up of 3G inventory, which was clearly outdated.”


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