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Smartphones for all

business Updated: Oct 08, 2012 01:01 IST
Rachit Vats
Rachit Vats
Hindustan Times
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Media executive Poulomi Sarma recently upgraded from a Nokia feature phone to the Sony Experia Tipo single-SIM smartphone for Rs. 9,499. “My preference was clear: Android smartphone, technologically sound, and a quality brand with features to fit my budget,” she said.

Consumers at the mass end of pocket power are the new heroes of India’s brand baskets. Practically every brand is offering something at the mass end of the product spectrum. And smartphone makers aren’t lagging behind. Most handset companies have started putting their bets in the sub-Rs. 10,000 segment.

Today, this segment accounts for 60% of smartphone sales. Leading players such as Samsung, Nokia, HTC, among others are competing hard with emerging homegrown handset makers Micromax, Karbonn, Lava and others in this space. With consumers upgrading and constantly seeking premium features in their phones, most handset makers are looking at further democratising their smartphone offerings at competitive prices.

“There is a strong upgrade happening from feature phones to smartphones as well as a growing base of first time smartphone buyers in the sub-Rs 10,000 segment,” said Asim Warsi , VP - Samsung Mobile, Samsung India. “There are a lot of tech-savvy young consumers who are going in for smartphones. At Samsung, we are looking at democratising the smartphone market by giving consumers more choice across various price segments,” he said.

Samsung already has four models on the Android platform beginning at around Rs. 7,000 with the Galaxy Y model. Competing with Samsung in the sub-Rs. 10,000 segment are Chinese and domestic players, with smartphones priced as low as Rs. 3,000. Samsung, with about 16 models in the market and a 41% market share, is targeting a 60% share by end-2012.

Nokia has the Asha family of feature-loaded smart devices priced at Rs. 4,000-9,000. It has been successfully building volumes in the last 10 months and aims to launch more Asha devices.

“India is primarily a replacement market now – consumers aspire to own devices that offer superior experiences. Our strategy is aimed at filling this need gap and offering devices across form factors and price points with unique experiences such as music, maps and locally-relevant apps,” said V Ramnath, director sales, Nokia India. “Nokia caters to consumers who have never before owned a mobile phone, or just want a basic phone, or first time smartphone buyers. All are important to our strategy to connect the next billion.”

HTC has a single product in the sub- Rs. 10,000 space, riding on the belief that consumers will upgrade to other premium HTC products after having used the entry level product once. “This is a very big segment where consumer seeks value. HTC Explorer is like a showcase that will lead, we believe, to consumers upgrading by stretching their budgets willingly,” said Faisal Siddiqui, country manager, HTC India.

Research in Motion’s (RIM) Blackberry brand also has one product in the space and is now looking at extending its democratised smartphones to more. “There is a lot of growth happening in this segment. While two years ago we were playing in the Rs. 15,000 price segment, suddenly, Rs. 10,000 has become a magical number and we are looking at playing around it,” said Krishnadeep Baruah, director marketing, India, RIM.

Aiming to become the second largest smartphone seller in India, homegrown Micromax will expand its portfolio with eight new devices across various price points.