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India Smartphone Market Crosses 150 Million Units in 2020: Counterpoint Research

The Indian smartphone market grew 19% YoY in Q4 2020 as the festive season offers got extended when compared to Q4 2019, due to Diwali falling on November 14.

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India’s smartphone shipments declined by a modest 4% YoY to reach over 150 million units in 2020, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Market Monitor service. The high consumer demand post-lockdown, as well as strong promotions on online channels and new uses cases like e-learning and work from home, drove the smartphone market in the pandemic-hit year.

Xiaomi recaptured the top spot in Q4 2020 with a strong 13% YoY growth. Ramped-up production through partnerships with more EMS (Electronic Manufacturing Service) players, new launches with a focus on the premium segment, strong demand for the Redmi 9 and Redmi Note 9 series, and aggressive offers during the festive season led to a strong quarter for Xiaomi.

On the other hand, Samsung slipped to the second position in Q4 2020 but exhibited a strong 30% YoY growth. Overall, 2020 has been a great year for Samsung as it recaptured the second spot in the Indian market. This was the first time when it went aggressive on online channels and built its portfolio across various price bands. The brand grew 1.5x YoY in CY 2020 on online channel shipments. Samsung was quite aggressive with its channels and go-to-market strategies for its mid-tier portfolio, like the Galaxy M and A-series.

Moreover, vivo remained the top offline player in 2020. However, it declined 13% YoY due to high exposure to the offline market, which was impacted by the pandemic in 2020. However, the brand exited 2020 on a leaner inventory, thanks to its channel strategies and robust supply chain connects.

Additionally, realme grew 22% in 2020 and crossed the 20 million units mark for the first time. High consumer demand on online channels as well as strong shipments of its C-series and Narzo series were the prime reasons for its growth in Q4 2020.

OPPO shipments grew 11% YoY in 2020 while remaining flat in Q4 2020, driven by the demand for its recently launched A12 and A53 models. It increased its manufacturing capacity in India and kept focusing on product innovation with improved research and development processes, especially related to 5G.

Due to discounts, Poco crossed 2.5 million smartphone units for the first time in Q4 2020 driven by its M2, M2 Pro and C3 models.

Transsion Group brands (Itel, Infinix and Tecno) kept the momentum in Q4 2020 as well, registering their highest-ever shipments in a single quarter at over 9 million units. Transsion brands remained strong in Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities, and rural India to capture the third position in the overall handset market driven by the Tecno Spark 6 Air, Itel Vision 1, and Infinix Smart 4 Plus models. Itel remained the top feature phone brand in the quarter and became the top feature phone brand in 2020 for the first time ever.

Coming to Apple, it captured the sixth spot in Q4 2020 with 171% YoY growth in Q4 and 93% YoY growth in 2020. The launch of the iPhone 12, aggressive offers on the iPhone SE 2020 and iPhone 11, and online expansion drove this growth. For the first time, the brand crossed 1.5 million shipments in a single quarter.

Meanwhile, OnePlus experienced 200% YoY growth in Q4 2020 driven by its mid-range Nord series and the newly launched 8T series. It re-entered the mid segment with the Nord series, which made it possible to cross 3 million shipments in a year for the first time.

2020 brought unexpected changes in the Indian smartphone industry due to COVID-19, anti-China sentiments, and developing manufacturing ecosystem. With these, it also marked the re-entry of Indian brands like Micromax. With its newly launched IN-series smartphones, Micromax has reached its highest market share in six quarters. With Indian brands revamping their portfolios, and Jio coming up with an entry-level 4G smartphone, 2021 will be a significant year for Indian brands and we expect their share to increase.

In 2020, 5G smartphone shipments crossed 4 million units in India. These shipments were driven by two brands – OnePlus, the only brand with a 100% 5G portfolio, and Apple, which launched the iPhone 12 series with 5G connectivity. Going forward, 5G smartphone shipments are expected to increase by more than nine times to reach 38 million units in 2021.

India’s mobile handset market declined 9% YoY in 2020 due to a decline in feature phone shipments. The feature phone market registered a 20% YoY decline in 2020 as consumers in this segment were the worst hit by the lockdowns. However, Itel grew 26% YoY in the feature phone segment and became the market leader in 2020.

Commenting on the market dynamics, Senior Research Analyst Prachir Singh said, “The Indian smartphone market maintained its momentum in Q4 2020 after a record-breaking third quarter. As Diwali was in mid-November this year, we witnessed high shipments during October as well. The overall market crossed 150 million units in 2020 driven by high consumer demand post-lockdown. Multiple new use cases such as online education, as well as increased content consumption, were the major factors for the high consumer demand. Going forward, we believe that this demand will grow further as more people transition from feature phones to smartphones and feature-rich devices, diffusing towards lower price tiers.”

Commenting on the competitive landscape and brand strategies, Research Analyst Shilpi Jain said, “The anti-China sentiments largely subsided by the end of the year with Chinese brands holding 75% market share in 2020. During the year, we saw innovative channel strategies from leading brands due to changed consumer behavior in the wake of COVID-19. Offline-centric brands such as Samsung, vivo and OPPO increased their online presence. Samsung increased its online presence with the Galaxy M-series on Amazon while launching the Galaxy F-series on Flipkart. Xiaomi launched ‘Mi on Wheels’ to drive its sales on offline channels and in remote areas. Brands also launched innovative promotions and loyalty programs such as ‘Smart Upgrade’ to retain as well as increase their user base. At the end of the year, we witnessed the return of Indian brands with Micromax announcing its IN-series smartphones. Indian brands are looking to expand their market share by leveraging the PLI scheme.”


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