India’s festival season has brought back the cheer for smartphone companies from China who faced a recent rough phase marred by supply bottlenecks and calls to boycott Chinese products.
Sales of Chinese smartphones grew during the just-concluded festival season compared to last year in a major relief to these brands that still dominate the Indian market.
Geopolitical tensions between India and China saw many customers shun Chinese products. This led South Korea’s Samsung to overtake China’s Xiaomi to become India’s top smartphone brand in the September quarter. The combined market share of the four major Chinese smartphone brands in India slipped to 66% in the June quarter from 73% in the March quarter. It fell further to 64% in the September quarter, according to Counterpoint Research.
China’s Realme sold 8.3 million products in October and November, including 6.3 million smartphones. This was 20% more than last year’s festive season sales. Another Chinese smartphone brand, Vivo, said sales jumped around 25% this October festive season compared to last year.
Xiaomi, which according toCounterpoint Research and another market research firm CMR had lost its leadership position in the September quarter, sold 9 million smartphones in the festive period through both online and offline channels. This year’s sales were 15-20% more than last year, Xiaomi said.
“We are thrilled to share that Mi India registered its highest-ever sales during this festive season. We are looking forward to higher demand in Q4 and are gearing ourselves to end the year on a high note,” Raghu Reddy, chief business officer, Mi India, said in a statement.
Despite falling market share, Chinese brands continue to enjoy a strong fan base due to attractive prices, user interface and customer engagement. According to a 30 October report by technology market research firm techARC, Chinese brands OnePlus and Realme were rated higher than Apple and Samsung in the holistic smartphone brand quality index due to their higher engagement with buyers and high-quality products.
Experts are, meanwhile, keeping their fingers crossed about any major shift in market share in the December quarter.
“What we are seeing is sellout from a clearing of inventory perspective. It is not an indication at all that the market share of Chinese brands will go up or down in the December quarter. Also, this time, Diwali was much later, and the online sales on both Amazon.in and Flipkart.com also lasted longer than they did last year,” said Rushabh Doshi, research director, Canalys.
Prachir Singh, a senior analyst at Counterpoint Research, said it is too early to offer a market forecast. He said “it will be a close contest between Xiaomi and Samsung for the No.1 spot in the fourth quarter, as it was in the last (September) quarter” when the difference in market share was only 1%.
Experts said since Diwali was late this year, festive shipments took place through October and November. Also, even though Samsung phones were in high demand, it might have struggled to sustain the high sales scores of July and August as Chinese brands worked to overcome prior supply shortages caused by holding up of components at ports and -insufficient production capacity.
Micromax, which is plotting a comeback with a smartphone each in the budget and mid-segment in November-end to capitalize on the government’s self-reliant India campaign, missed the festive season sales.