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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

A new battle begins!

The Indian mobile market has become more cut-throat than it has ever been before

brunch Updated: Feb 24, 2019 01:22 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
New rules, new players, and new strategies - a whole new war has begun
New rules, new players, and new strategies - a whole new war has begun
         

The Indian mobile market has been officially christened as the most aggressive, the most nimble, and the most cut-throat. But within what was already a blood battle that has consumed and destroyed most Indian brands, a new war has just broken out. New rules, new players, and new strategies. Let me first give you a layout of the battlefield.

Where we are

Xiaomi dominates the online market with OnePlus, Honor and Realme breathing down its neck. Samsung dominates the offline market with Oppo and Vivo right next. The lines drawn in the sand were quite clear and respected, till they all got completely muddy. Xiaomi started to push an offline strategy, Honor already had a pretty good footprint offline, Oppo and Vivo started releasing exclusive online phones, and then the big daddy made its move. Samsung decided it was time to get into pure play online mode and released the M10 and M20 with the M30 to follow. All hell broke loose. More hell of a new kind was unleashed when the government put their skin in the game (apparently to help a new super-aggressive e-commerce entrant... sssshhhh) and implemented some serious new rules for e-commerce players. Whatever you know of the Indian mobile market, whichever way you buy your phones right now, and whatever criterion you keep in mind while doing that – forget about it. It’s all about to change forever.

Let me take you through a few phones that were released in the last few days and signal clearly that this new war has begun.

Samsung Galaxy M10 and M20

Samsung released the M10, M20 for the online market
Samsung released the M10, M20 for the online market

Great looking, big screens, dew drop notch, dual cameras at the back, excellent battery life and unheard of aggression from Samsung in price. Samsung truly threw down the gauntlet with the M10 at Rs 7,990 and M20 at Rs 10,990. They charged no premium for the Samsung brand and entered the online market in fire-starter mode. This was Samsung announcing that they understood the online market and would play the game. Initial sales took off like a rocket.

Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro

Xiaomi slashed the prices of Redmi 6 Pro to directly affect Samsung
Xiaomi slashed the prices of Redmi 6 Pro to directly affect Samsung

Xiaomi instantly reacted and slashed prices. Samsung was invading directly into its coveted territory and if Samsung tasted victory blood, it could kill it all. Xiaomi slashed prices to directly hurt the M10 and M20. Redmi 6 Pro (4GB/64GB) prices were slashed by Rs 2,000 to bring it right next to the price of the M20. The lower-end Redmi 6 Pro price was brought near to the M10. Many other Xiaomi phones received major price cuts. Knee jerk reaction from Xiaomi? Absolutely. Necessary reaction to survive by Xiaomi? Absolutely.

Oppo K1

The Oppo K 1 is not only an incredible phone at a great price but it’s coming on strong online with this new number
The Oppo K 1 is not only an incredible phone at a great price but it’s coming on strong online with this new number

This is the phone that signifies Oppo’s new strategy of online super aggression. This phone has literally everything you expect from a 35K phone, but is priced at a shocking 16K. In-display fingerprint scanner, AMOLED screen (a very big deal at this price), a colour gradient 3D glass sculpted body, incredible optics including a 25MP front camera. This is an incredible phone at an incredible price. With this, Oppo has clearly announced that it’s coming in strong online and cannot be taken as an offline player only.

Honor View20

Honor is also selling the View20  through all offline Reliance stores at the same price! Unheard of in the Indian market
Honor is also selling the View20 through all offline Reliance stores at the same price! Unheard of in the Indian market

Honor tasted incredible success with its parent company Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro. Heralded as the best phone in the world, it sold out in India within minutes. Emboldened with that success, Honor decided to go up the value chain with the View20. And boy, did they pull out all stops. Multiple world firsts including an in-screen punch hole camera, a 48 MP rear camera, the first 7nm processor and many, many more. Add to that a stunning body and features. They then priced it right where it would hurt OnePlus and hurt them good. Rupees 37,999. I would understand if this was only an online phone. But Honor is also selling this through all offline Reliance stores at the same price! Unheard of in the Indian market. A troubling strategy for the competition that will need to respond. Initial sales point to the View20 absolutely killing it in its category.

What happens now?

Everything! OnePlus will have to respond to the new challenge from Honor, or else they will lose marketshare fast, OnePlus will also have to determine if online only works for them anymore. Xiaomi will have to be very careful with its next few phones and pricing, or else they will lose their mantle fast and big. Samsung apparently has another five online only phones coming out soon but they need to keep the feature and price strategy super aggressive. Oppo, Vivo and Realme have new phones slotted for release within days and each will need to rise above the house with each. And each will now have to do it with the e-commerce rules of no exclusive deals and no predatory pricing.

It’s a brand new arena, untested strategies and billions at stake. Trust me, this battle will leave quite a few companies in the dust. Which ones? Time and I will tell you, soon!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

Techilicious appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, February 17, 2019

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