India set for tablet battle

03 May 2011

NEW DELHI: Brand owners including Apple, Samsung and Asus are all attempting to steal an early lead in India's nascent tablet market.

Apple released the iPad 2 in the country last week, and some observers have forecast sales of this appliance and similar, rival offerings could hit 1m units during 2011/12.

Having previously left relatively large gaps between premiering products in the US and India, Apple did so within 50 days in the case of its latest gadget.

Vishal Tripathi, an analyst at specialist research firm Gartner, suggested rising competition in the rapidly-expanding economy had stimulated such a decision.

"With so many other vendors launching their devices, Apple doesn't want to miss out on new users looking to buy their first tablet in India," said Tripathi.

However, the various iterations of the iPad2 cost in the range of 29,500 rupees ($665; €446; £399) to 46,900 rupees, and Tripathi predicted these price points may prove problematic.

"Until the tablet PC prices drop to about 15,000-20,000 rupees, it will not become a mass market device," said Tripathi.

"Going ahead, we expect tablet PCs, netbooks and notebooks to co-exist in the Indian market."

Samsung, which makes the Galaxy Tab, hopes to take a 40% share of the Indian category in 2011 with its stable of tablets.

"Samsung will offer a diverse portfolio in the tablet market this year," said Ranjit Yadav, Samsung's country head, mobile and IT.

"While the tablet PC market today stands at around 25,000 units a quarter, we expect it to grow exponentially here on."

"With tablets starting at 24,000 rupees, we believe Samsung is positioned ahead of many in the market and will be aggressively marketing its devices through mobile and retail outlets."

Asus also intends to roll out the Eee Pad Transformer - a comparatively cheap option - by the end of June, although recent events in Japan mean this date is actually behind the provisional schedule.

"Our original plan was to launch Transformer in India in May but we are facing supply issues due to component shortage after the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan," said Alex Huang, country head for Asus in India.

Sony, the Japanese electronics giant, sold 120,000 notebooks in India over the 2009/10 financial year, and anticipates demand should more than double in 2010/11.

The company unveiled its first slate, the S1, in April, but is confident space remains for tablets and additional gadgets in consumers' lives.

Tadato Kimura, general manager, marketing, Sony India, said: "As the utility value of both the tablet PCs and notebooks is totally different, the launch of tablet PCs will not affect the notebook market."

Data sourced from Business Standard/Times of India; additional content by Warc staff