NEW DELHI: International and Indian smartphone vendors are optimistic that the market in India will soon grow substantially even though a number of obstacles remain, such as expensive 3G services and a patchy telecoms infrastructure.
John Sculley, the former Apple chief executive who recently launched the low-cost Obi smartphone brand in the country, told the Financial Times that India is experiencing "incredible" growth.
"I've been in and around mobile for many years, and this is the most exciting opportunity globally. India is growing incredibly rapidly with smartphones … it is going to be huge," he said.
Jayanth Kolla, a telecoms analyst at Convergence Catalyst, agreed that smartphone manufacturers are keen to expand in India.
"China is getting saturated," he said. "Most people already have smartphones, just like in the US. But hundreds of millions in India are about to upgrade to their first one, so manufacturers are piling in."
Obi Mobiles has ambitious plans for both India and other emerging markets and it wants the brand to account for about 5% of the Indian smartphone market.
"Our aspirations are to build an international brand with India being the beachhead and to go to all of the emerging markets, learning from our experience here with differentiation around branding and marketing," Sculley told the Economic Times.
Obi is now geared to compete in the market through advertising, marketing and point-of-sale campaigns, where social media will play a key role, he explained.
Other players are joining in – for example, Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi launched its flagship Mi 4 smartphone earlier this month while Google plans to launch its Android One in September.
They will join established brands, such as South Korea's Samsung, which has about one-third market share, Taiwan's HTC and China's ZTE, as well as cheaper domestic brands, such as Micromax, Karbonn and Lava.
However, international brands are not guaranteed an easy ride in India because the country's 3G services can be unreliable outside major cities.
Asim Warsi, vice-president of Samsung India, also warned them that they would have to work hard on their distribution because most Indian consumers buy handsets from small corner shops rather than purchase online.
Data sourced from Financial Times, Economic Times; additional content by Warc