Chinese handset makers upping the ante in India



Apr. 9 (NBD) -- "India is a highly potential market and here we have our second global headquarters," OnePlus CEO Liu Zuohu said to news outlet Yicai. 

While the global smartphone market is seeing a slowdown in growth, India, where 90 percent of its population has a desire to switch to smartphones, holds great appeal to Chinese mobile phone manufacturers. "A sponge with no water," so Liu described the market. 

"India's overall mobile phone shipments grew 11 percent to cross 330 million units for the first time ever," said Neil Shah, research director of Counterpoint Research. 

Chinese brands registered the strongest ever annual performance in the country last year capturing a record 60 percent smartphone market share, a big jump from 17 percent in 2014, data from the research firm showed. Xiaomi toppled South Korea's Samsung to become India's top-selling smartphone company, grabbing a 28 percent share. 

Reports said India will be the sole major smartphone market that sustains growth this year. 

"There might be 50 active brands (in India) this year," Neil Shah noted. 

At a shopping mall in Delhi, India, Yicai reporter saw a glass door of a mobile phone chain covering around 20 square meters plastered with logo stickers of a lot of phone brands including iPhone, Samsung, OPPO, vivo and Nokia, and the door head also carries signboards of three brands. This vividly pictures the fierce competition there. 

The more exposure a brand has, the stronger impression it will make on customers, according to Wang Miao (pseudonym), who runs an electronic product chain store in India. 

In addition to scrambling for a place on the door of storefronts to impress consumers, mobile phone makers are ramping up their investment in the populous nation. 

Samsung opened its biggest experience center in Bangalore last September, with more in the pipeline as India is a key market, said Mohandeep Singh, senior vice president of the company's India operations. 

The electronics products manufacturer claimed it now has over 180,000 retail partners and 2,100 franchise houses in the country.  

Huawei's smartphone brand Honor has announced a goal of squeezing into the top 3 of the Indian mobile phone market by 2021, backed by investments of over 100 million U.S. dollars starting 2019 for expanding local manufacturing and distribution.  

To maintain its strong growth momentum, Xiaomi is working to shorten the time lag between online and offline product availability and increase the supply in brick-and-mortar stores. To date, the Chinese smartphone maker has built an offline presence in more than 40 Indian cities and towns.