India’s top smartphone makers come under pressure from Chinese rivals

India’s smartphone market is heralded as the largest opportunity in mobile right now — that’s why Apple has opened a mapping development center and is planning an app development facility — but the country’s top players are being disrupted as newcomers, mainly from China, rush into the country.

That’s according to a new report from IDC this week which found that, while the total number of smartphone shipments in India rose 5.2 percent year-on-year, India’s top three OEMs struggled. The research firm found that Micromax, Intex and Lava saw their cumulative shipments drop 20.4 percent on the previous quarter.

One reason for that is that the number of devices shipped in India in Q1 2016 actually shrank by 8.2 percent from Q4 2015 — the second consecutive quarterly dip. A drop had been expected since first quarter demand is usually lower than the previous period, which includes Christmas and New Year, but competition from rivals also impacted the three companies’ efforts.

IDC analyst Karthik J said Micromax, Intex and Lava had “struggled to push their inventories into the market,” as a slew of competitors including Reliance Jio, and Chinese firms LeEco, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and Coolpad all grew their share of sales.

Indeed, some evidence of the tough challenge comes from the fact that IDC estimates that there are more than 25 different phone makers selling devices under the ‘Make In India’ initiative, which encourages handsets to be manufactured in the country. The firm estimates that more than two-thirds of shipments in the last quarter were made in India.

Overall, Samsung continues to lead the pack with 26.6 percent of the 23.5 million smartphone shipments that IDC estimates for the quarter. The Korean firm is followed by Micromax, Intex, and Lenovo with Reliance Jio making fifth place. One-third of the market is made up of the rest of the industry, which includes Apple and its sub-one percent marketshare.


The report is an interesting indicator that, despite its potential for growth and billion-plus population, India is not China. While India is estimated to have 220 million smartphone users and growth is forecast to be double-digit for at least the next two years, the opportunity is a long-term one. We shouldn’t expect the kind of rampant growth that happened when smartphones first took off in China, North America or Western Europe: India is India.