Questions linger about sustainability of borrowed Android-based growth
In 2009, Samsung had 11% share of the Indian mobile handset space. Today, that market share stands at 34%, a jump of almost 210%. Also, the South Korean mobile handset manufacturer now boasts of 43% market share in the Indian smartphone market.
The numbers have grown in India in tandem with what has happened globally. Last week at the company’s annual results, Samsung announced annual shipment of 93.5 million mobiles as compared with Nokia’s 82.7 million. This is the first time since 1998 that the Finland-headquartered Nokia has lost the number one slot.
In India, Samsung’s 43% market share in the smartphone segment is also the highest. Going forward, this, says the company, will form the bulwark of the company’s growth in the country.
“The smartphone market is set to grow from 8-9 million to around 18 million by this year. We want to fuel and lead the growth,” Ranjit Yadav, director, IT and mobility, Samsung India.
The company claims that the handset range on offer is the most varied in the market, both in terms of price points and in terms of features. The strategy now, they say is to ensure that consumers in the feature phone segment are able to avail smartphone features at a restricted price point as well.
“Beyond Smartphones, we are looking at giving Smartphone like features in the feature phone segment as well,” Yadav further explained.
Besides this, part of the growth plan has been to ensure that more and more categories are added as well. A case in point is the Galaxy Note, which has been touted as a cross between the tablet and the smartphone.
“Also, we are the first ones to introduce the dual sim smartphone, something that should expand our reach significantly,” Yadav said.
Going the Smartphone way
The Samsung hypothesis is backed by research data as well: According to a recently released report by Convergence Catalyst, a research consultancy, the smartphone segment will grow 100% in 2012, and total smartphone shipments are expected to reach 20 million units.
These numbers have important cues for handset makers. “In the next five years, or by 2015, smartphones are expected to go up — from having 3% of the overall handset pie in India to 30% of the larger pie,” said Deepak Kumar, research director at the International Data Council (IDC) India.
For Samsung India, the contribution of smartphones to the overall revenue pie will grow commensurate to the market from 11% in 2011 to 25% this year.
“That it is a success is clear. The reason, possibly, could be explained through the use of the Android platform, which offers more features than any other operating platform at a restricted price point,” said Anshul Gupta, research analyst, Gartner.
Samsung is the only brand international brand in India to offer Android-based smartphones for as little as Rs 7350. Also, the company has taken care to offer variety to the consumer in terms of range. The Windows based smartphone is priced at Rs 38,000.
“We have 19 phones in the smartphone range and at any point we offer 40-45 handsets in the country. We are the only player providing consumers a range of Smartphones across the Windows, Android and Bada platforms,” Yadav further said.
This, is exactly where Nokia has lost out to Samsung, opine analysts.
“The Nokia Symbian platform which could compete with Android in features at price points was incompatible with the touch interface, and is hence now dying,” said Gupta.
When contacted, Nokia refused to elucidate on the points about market offerings and its standing vis-à-vis competition.
“Nokia is in the middle of a transformation program which encompasses every aspect of our business. We are implementing a decisive action plan to position our company for future growth and success,” a Nokia spokesperson said in an email.
While Nokia continues to be the leader in overall handset market in India, and has readied its fightback with the launch of the Windows based Lumia range.
Dependence of Android to hurt in long run?
The concern for Samsung, going forward, say analysts, has to do with it’s over dependence on Android.
“It is a puzzle to me now, years and years on to see companies like Samsung continuing to operate within the operating system and ecosystem that other vendors control,” a recent Reuters article quoted Horace Dediu. Dediu was formerly a consultant with Nokia and now runs the website www.asymco.com.
The dependence, say analysts, is a problem because first any upgrade on the Android platform means old handsets become redundant.
Also Samsung is forced, in such a scenario to become like a commodity-which works on an ecosystem created by a rival. In India, of the total smartphones shipped by Samsung, 60% in the Rs 7,000 to Rs 38,000 range run on Android, said Samsung.
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