Samsung overtook Chinese challenger Xiaomi to retake the crown of India’s top smartphone brand in April-June period, according to market tracker CMR, even as Reliance Retail emerged as India’s biggest smartphone maker. A week ago, Counterpoint Research too had come to the same conclusion.

Xiaomi had ended Samsung’s decade-long reign at the top of Indian smartphone market six months ago, but was able to enjoy the position only for six months.

According to CMR, one of the three big firms tracking the Indian market, Samsung topped Indian smartphone shipments in Apr-Jun with a share of 29.9%, followed closely by Xiaomi at 29.6% and Vivo at a distant 9.6%.

“In 2Q 2018, Samsung’s continued brand loyalty in India paid dividends with its new refreshed portfolio enabling it to trump Xiaomi in the cut-throat smartphone competition,” said Prabhu Ram, Head – Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR.

“Whether it be the new rich features, camera or screen innovations, they all helped it in making dents.”

It should, however, be noted that Vivo is part of a larger group that includes Oppo, RealMe and OnePlus, whose combined shares would be similar to what Samsung and Xiaomi enjoys in India, if not higher.

Prabhu also pointed out that HTC exited the Indian market during the period, but Taiwanese brand ASUS seems to have come back with a bang with value-for-money offerings under its Zenphone range.

“It is remarkable to note that ASUS scripted a positive turnaround, on the back of a revised market strategy and astute stewardship,” Prabhu said.

Among the other brands that put in a strong performance were Honor, Realme and Vivo, said the agency.

Smartphones grew 17% in Apr-Jun compared to the year earlier, while featurephone sales fell 28%. LTE handsets grew 104% growth compared to last year same period.

JIOPHONE FTW

The second notable trend was that Samsung was no longer the top dog in India’s overall mobile market — which includes featurephone.

Reliance Retail, which sells Jiophone, took that crown with an overall share of 27% of the total market. Samsung’s share of the overall market was not disclosed, but is likely to be a few percentage points lower.

The transition comes as users of ‘dumb’ phones make the switch to the semi-smart Jiophone, lured by the dirt-cheap calling charges and features such as live TV.

Narinder Kumar, Lead Analyst, IIG-CMR, said Jio has a near monopoly on the semi-smart, or ‘fusion’ phones, but others are expected to enter the category to survive.

“Going forward, it is expected that other brands shall also explore Fusion phones and excite the consumers with enriched smart capabilities within the feature phone form factor,” he said, adding that brands like Micromax and Lava have already started shipping in this category.

However, what remains to be seen is if these models get some kind of support, like Jio provides for Jiophone, which is currently available for Rs 501.

“However, the success would like in how it penetrates into the open market, albeit telecom operators supporting the initiative,” he said.

Despite this, CMR still maintained that it will smartphones that will ultimately corner the chunk of the market, outstripping the sales of featurephones and fusion phones collectively in two years.

MANUFACTURING TRENDS

CMR also said local manufacturing of phones has now reached 25%, even as the overall phone market this year is likely to hit the 300 mln mark — up from the 225 mln mark that the Indian market has seen in the last few years.

The report also mentioned the trend of companies resorting to importing ‘completely knocked down’ or CKD kits and then assembling them in India.

“In 2Q 2018, with the ushering in of the CKD level manufacturing, there are two broad trends underlining short-term turbulence. These include, the impact of Jio’s disruptive Monsoon offer leading to erratic demand projection estimations for all major handset brands, and secondly, the capabilities of smaller players to switch to CKD manufacturing and maintain production levels with their own SMT (surface-mount technology lines.”

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