The domestic mobile handset market, which has been a happy playground for global players like Nokia and Samsung, has begun to see sizeable home-bred presence.
With the government’s crackdown on Chinese handsets, Indian brands like Karbonn, Lava, Micromax and Movil have usurped the vacated space and increased their share of the market to 15 per cent, which is projected to rise to 25-30 per cent by the next three-five years.
Most of the home brands are designed in India, manufactured in China and at Rs 1,700-6,500 compete with Chinese handsets. Besides, the Indian brands hold the upper hand because they come equipped with the 15-digit International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, whose absence was the stick used to beat the Chinese brands.
The IMEI number helps in tracking or blocking a mobile phone. Handsets without this number are perceived as a security risk. The Indian ones also offer more features for the same price, and a wider distribution and after-sales network.
The Indian mobile handset market grew by 23.6 per cent to 122 million in calendar year (CY) 2008, up from 98.7 million in CY 2007, according to Gartner. Nokia is market leader with 58 per cent share, Samsung comes second with 15 per cent.
“These new (Indian) brands emerged after the crackdown on Chinese handsets. They will slowly capture the grey market earlier occupied by Chinese phones,” said Indian Cellular Association President Pankaj Mohindroo.
Mahesh Uppal, a telecom expert, said the margins in this industry were not very large. “In smaller towns and cities people are conscious about pricing and still want extra features such as radio, camera and dual SIM. This is why the new brands are picking up so fast.”
Karbonn Mobiles, a joint venture between Delhi-based Jaina Group and Bangalore-based UTL Group, introduced its mobile handsets in April this year and have sold 1.5 million handsets till now, Jaina Group Executive Director Shashin Devsare said. Jaina Group is currently engaged in national distribution of HTC mobile phones in India and South Asia, and Motorola and LG in India
“We give mobile users the same features and quality, which they get in global branded handsets, at an affordable price. There’s a huge market in the rural areas and even the replacement mobile market is on our radar,” he said.
The company is focusing on rural and semi-urban areas with a price range of Rs 1700-6500. It is also targeting a market share of 7-10 per cent and revenues of Rs 100 crore in the current financial year.
Praveen Srivastava, Head of Sales of Lava Mobile which was launched in July this year, said the mobile handset market is opening up. “The adoption level for Indian brands is increasing by the day. We have built a sound infrastructure network with 600 distributors and 40,000 retailers across the country, besides 400 exclusive shops for our products.”
Similarly, Bling Telecom, a private limited company, has introduced the brand Movil, which will have a wide range of designer phones in the mid and high end segment and cater to both GSM and CDMA space.
“The phones from Movil will be available by the end of this month and have a price range of Rs 1800-6000. The company aims to sell about 1.5 million phones in the first year of launch with a target of Rs 150 crore as revenues,” said Rajiv Khanna, who is spearheading the venture.
All the firms have started their advertising campaign either through TV commercials or outdoor means. There is a huge untapped market, especially in rural areas where teledensity stands at 20 per cent compared with 95 per cent in cities.