In a surprise, Pantel Technologies, which sells its wares under names such as Penta, has overtaken bigger brands such as Samsung and Micromax to emerge as the No. 1 seller of tablet PCs in India in terms of volumes.
The company, a long-time supplier to BSNL, had a 16.4% share of the Indian tablet market in the third quarter of 2015 (July-September). Samsung was second with a 14.9% share and Micromax had a 14.05% share.
In comparison, in the first quarter of this year, Samsung had a market share of 19.7%, followed by Datawind at 12.7% and Micromax at 9%.
The primary reason for the decline of Samsung and the rise of Pantel is government procurement, said CyberMedia Research — which compiled the numbers.
“We have been repeatedly saying that Tablets need an enterprise and government orientation and this is what players like Pantel have been able to successfully adopt. With not much sales happening at the consumer side and the enterprises also not so bully about this product, the procurement in the government domain have helped this product to re-surface,” said Faisal Kawoosa, Lead Analyst CMR Telecoms Practice.
“However, as government goes by the cost effective purchasing system, we will see low-priced brands like Pantel, Datawind, etc. having an edge compared to other vendors like Micromax, Samsung and Xiaomi. For them to grow, Tablets have to get along consumers and enterprises.”
The Indian tablet market has seen disappointing sales, with year-on-year numbers showing declines, in recent quarters due to a lack of interest in the form factor. Customers increasingly prefer a large-sized phone instead of a tablet.
Bigger phones tend to have displays in the range of 5.5-6.0 inches, while 73% of the tablets sold in India have 7-inch displays — making the difference very narrow.
In the first quarter, for example, tablet shipments in India dipped 14% on quarter.
India buys around 200 mln phones in a year, or about 50 mln per quarter.
In comparison, a total of 1.36 mln tablets were sold in the third quarter of the year, according to CyberMedia Research numbers.
Thanks to government purchases, this number represented a 31.8% growth year-on-year (3Q 2015 over 3Q 2014) and a 27.1% growth quarter-on-quarter (3Q 2015 over 2Q 2015).
Most of the increase in shipments during the quarter was because of Pantel.
The brand “earlier used to be exclusively packaged with BSNL mobile services. The vendor has now broadened focus to target both the Government and Retail sectors,” CMR said..
“Further, on account of the festive season in India, a number of vendors pre-stocked shipments for sale during the month of October. Players that saw a good growth in this quarter versus the previous quarter were Pantel Technology, Samsung, Micromax, Datawind, iBall and Lenovo,” it added.
The sweetspot for tablet prices in India is between Rs 5,000-10,000, according to the numbers.
“While most of the broad specifications remain similar in this quarter as well and we did not observe any major shift in trending parameters, however, it is worth noting that in the sub ₹10,000 segment, ₹5,000 – 10,000 price bracket is growing significantly,” said Tanvi Sharma, Analyst for Tablet Devices at CMR.
“This is a healthy indication that while the consumer is accepting low priced devices, it is at the same time keeping a check on the quality thus pushing the device cost above ₹5,000. In the past, under ₹5,000 devices had quality issues and majority of the consumers were not happy with the products in this price range.”
Unlike smartphones, tablets still tend to suffer from weak processors and low resolution displays. Most tablets, for example, come with quad-core 32 bit processors while mid-range smartphones have moved on to octa-core processors. 55% of the tablets sold in the quarter had just 1 GB of RAM.
In terms of displays, mid-range smartphones now offer full-HD (2 mln pixel) displays or HD displays, while tablets very rarely offer full-HD displays in the sub-Rs-10,000 category. Most come with 0.5 to 0.6 million pixel displays.
Tanvi Sharma said that is about to change. “We are expecting in year 2016, to see some major shift in the trending specifications as Tablets are very likely to follow the Smartphone trend of improving specifications over a period of time. Tablets have perhaps reached that stage now where it has to happen.”
Android has a 92.5% market share in India.