Low prices boost India's smartphone market

9 September 2014

NEW DELHI: The launch of Apple's iPhone 6 is unlikely to have a major impact on India's smartphone market where price is the main driver of growth and manufacturers are in a race to the bottom.

The cheapest smartphones now retail at Rs 2,000 ($33), according to AFP, down from an average Rs 15,000 two years ago. "A new entry-level price point is being breached by Indian home-grown vendors in every [financial] quarter," said Karan Thakkar, an analysts with researcher IDC.

Mozilla, the non-profit organisation behind the open-source web browser Firefox, is the latest to enter the bottom end of the market, partnering with local maker Intex to offer a product priced at Rs 1,999, the first batch of which Intex claimed had sold out within days. It aims to shift a total of 500,000 by the end of the year.

The Canalys consultancy said that smartphone sales were up 84% in the quarter to June as users, attracted by low prices, traded up from feature phones. And in a country with more than 900m mobile users there is "huge potential" as hundreds of millions of users have yet to upgrade.

IDC predicted the market would grow by 40% annually for the next five years and added that among mobile users, smartphones already had a 10% share, a figure widely regarded as the tipping point at which the shift to smartphones started to accelerate.

"It's a time of transformation in the Indian mobile industry," said Vanitha Narayanan, IBM India managing director. "Getting access to the internet is where it's at."

Most of that transformation is taking place in the lower price range, with sales of smartphones costing less than $200 reported to now account for 80% of sales, a development that observers say leading brands like Apple and Samsung will somehow need to address.

A new survey of 889 Indian consumers, reported in the Business Standard, indicated that only 5% of Android users would shift their allegiance to Apple with the launch of the iPhone 6. But a further 12.4% said they were 'somewhat likely' to switch.

Existing iPhone owners were keen to upgrade – 36% of iPhone 5 owners were 'very likely' to, as were 18% of iPhone 5S owners and 15% of iPhone 5C owners.

Data sourced from AFP, Business Standard; additional content by Warc staff