Indian brands challenge mobile giants

15 April 2013

NEW DELHI: Low-cost Indian smartphone brands like Micromax and Karboon are growing rapidly, and hope to threaten the dominance of leading global players like Apple and Samsung in the country.

Micromax and Karbonn are two of the leading domestic contenders, having both increased their shipments of smartphones in recent months, according to data from Consumer Media Research.

Micromax recorded 633,000 shipments in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from 9,990 a year earlier. Karbonn grew from zero to 304,000 over the same period, after introducing its first smartphone in April 2012.

"India is poised for a smartphone boom - just look at the internet penetration and potential," Deepak Mehrotra, chief executive officer of Micromax, told Bloomberg. "But we don't see any point to offering a Ferrari."

Mehrotra hopes Micromax will topple Samsung as India's top smartphone vendor by March 2014, while Karbonn has set a target of selling five million smartphones in the current fiscal year

India is predicted to be the third largest smartphone market in the world by 2017, but for now it is dominated by feature phones, which accounted for 93% of mobile shipments in 2012, according to Cybermedia Research.

The lower prices offered by challenger brands is one key contributor to developing the market, with their products costing around 15% of the price of an iPhone and around half that of a Samsung handset.

Another factor is their subsidy of monthly data packages rather than handset itself. "Middle-class India is quickly realising they can afford our devices, but it's the recurring cost of data which they are struggling with," said Shashin Devsare, executive director at Karbonn.

"That's the key. If we can get people online once, we believe our devices will be their point of access for years to come," he stated.

Data sourced from Bloomberg, CyberMedia Research; additional content by Warc staff