Telecoms battle heats up in India

01 November 2011

NEW DELHI: Global telecoms groups such as Samsung and Nokia are adapting their strategies in India, where new local challengers are starting to exert a major influence.

CyberMedia Research found 40% of mobile phones shipped in 2011 to date were made by Indian firms, versus almost none in 2008. It predicted 210m handsets will hit the market in 2011, up from 167m in 2010, as 200 brands compete to attract shoppers.

"Four out of ten brands sold in the market are brands that you and I may not have heard of," said Naveen Mishra, a CyberMedia analyst. "With a 900m teledensity in India, 40-50% of the Indian market is still untapped. In the next three-to-four years, we will continue to see a clutter at the lower end."

Micromax is among the leading Indian manufacturers, and Pratik Seal, its head of marketing, reported the company can now reach 70% of the domestic population, and is aiming to expand overseas.

Elsewhere, Karbonn Mobiles, another India-based firm, is trying to boost awareness and penetration levels, according to Shashin Devsare, its executive director.

"We are present in most districts in the country. We entered metros in early 2010 and that will be our focus in the coming months. Besides BTL activities, TV advertising is also very important to building our brand," he said.

Foreign players are simultaneously enhancing their efforts, however. Samsung has around 45 models on sale at any one time, ranging in price from Rs1,000 to Rs32,500, and including 12 smartphones, a sector where it holds a 28% share.

"Besides product experience, we are also looking to provide our consumers a differentiated retail experience. We have set up 55 Smartphone cafes across India and the numbers are growing as we speak," said Ranjit Yadav, country head, Samsung Mobile & IT.

Similarly, Nokia currently sells roughly 40 devices in India for varying demographics, with its new Windows Phone likely to be targeted at mid-to-high earning shoppers, and priced at approximately Rs20,000.

"The history of most markets shows that only the top five brands matter," said D Shivkumar, Nokia India's MD. "If a brand can manage innovation in a continuous stream, and scale, then only will it survive. That needs big investments in R&D."

Sony Ericsson anticipates that smartphone sales in India could rise from 5m in 2010 to at least 9m in 2011 and a minimum of 80m in 2015. Its marketing efforts will mainly prioritise affluent, ambitious 16-34 year olds.

"By 2015, every second mobile phone in India will be a smartphone," said P Balaji, MD, Sony Ericsson India. "We won't launch a slew of products that will dilute our energy. We will focus on a few launches that will enhance our positioning of an entertainment brand."

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