Amid a potential slowdown, the country’s smartphone makers are gearing up for bumper sales ahead of the festival season. To draw consumers, at least 75 new smartphone models have been lined up and that may add momentum to the already growing sector.
Initial estimates — based on trends of the past two months — suggest that during the July-September quarter smartphone shipments may touch an all-time high. While last year, during the corresponding quarter, nearly 42.6 million units were shipped in, this year the number may surpass 45 million, analysts estimate.
Prabhu Ram, head of industry intelligence group, CyberMedia Research, says smartphone shipments will grow 8-10 per cent year-on-year during the quarter. “Smartphone brands have lined up many exciting launches, backed by attractive offers. Online shopping festivals will further pique customers’ interest,” he said.
The euphoria is clearly visible in activities of the smartphone majors. Market leader Xiaomi is planning to launch Redmi Note 8 and 8 Pro, extension of its flagship Note series. Second-largest player Samsung has lined up launches under its current online-only series M that directly competes with Xiaomi. The Korean giant will also launch new models under its yearly flagship Galaxy S series in September.
Samsung’s rival in the super premium segment — Apple — is not behind. New iPhone models are expected to be unveiled in the country by October — days ahead of Diwali. OnePlus, another heavyweight in the premium category that frequently beats Apple and Samsung in their own turf, is launching OnePlus 7T — replacing the bestselling OnePlus 6T this month.
Vivo, Oppo, and Realme, the third-, fourth- and fifth-largest players currently, have their own flagships lined up. Vivo Z2 Pro, Z1X Pro, and Z5, Realme XT, and Oppo Reno 2 series are in the pipeline. Other leading brands like Nokia, Huawei, and Honor are coming out with Nokia 6.2, 7.2, and 8.2, Huawei Mate 30 series, and Honor 9X series, respectively, during the festival season.
Lenovo is relaunching its mother brand after it withdrew Lenovo smartphones from the market over a year ago. The Chinese major is planning to lap up its dual-brand strategy this season — with Lenovo and Motorola — targeting different sets of consumers.
While a flurry of launches usually hit the market every year during the September-October period, analysts say the enthusiasm this year is in stark contrast in comparison with the conditions in the overall consumer goods market that is going through a slowdown in sales.
The uniqueness of the country’s smartphone market is probably acting as a saving grace. Unlike other consumer goods categories like packaged food and beverages, cars, and personal care items, smartphone buyers consider e-commerce channel to be a key shopping outlet. The share of online channel ranges between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of all smartphone sales compared to less than 2 per cent for fast-moving consumer good items, and nil for automobiles.
In the coming weeks, online retailers are expected to further raise the pitch with shopping festivals, discounts, and cashback offers. Last year, these measures led to record sales of handsets during the season.
Navkendar Singh, research director at IDC, said, “We should expect continued aggression by online heavy brands and e-tailers in the next few months fuelled by new launches and price reductions of last few launches, leading up to the festive season.”
Moreover, rapid expansion of footprint in the offline retail space by leading players like Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo in the past few years may lead to fierce competition for shelf space. Singh said this will make the retail channel very critical for any brand’s success in the weeks ahead.
Samsung, which has recently bounced back with a strong proposition in the online space, is eyeing double-digit growth in sales in premium category, said Ranjivjit Singh, chief marketing officer, Samsung. Raghu Reddy, head of categories and online sales for Xiaomi, said he expects the market to grow by 8-9 per cent during the festival season.