In India, Samsung has long reined supreme as the country’s top phone maker, but now its top slot is on attack from multiple quarters.
Samsung has lost the top spot in the both the smartphone and feature phone segments to two different companies this quarter, data from research firms shows. In the smart phone segment, Samsung has lost the top slot to Chinese upstart Xiaomi. In the feature phone segment consisting of phones priced at below Rs. 2000, it has lost the top spot to Reliance’s JioPhone.
In the last quarter of 2017, Xiaomi edged out Samsung to become India’s top smartphone company. Xiaomi sold 25% of all smartphones in the country, compared to 23% for Samsung. These companies were followed by Oppo, Vivo, and Lenovo, all of which had 6% share. It’s been a dramatic move up the ranks for Xiaomi, which, until the last quarter of 2016, only accounted for 9% of all phones sold. Samsung had held the top spot for the last 6 years.
While Samsung has been dethroned in the smartphone category by a Chinese company, in the feature phone segment, it’s been dethroned by an Indian company which had nothing to do with phones or telecom until 16 months ago. Five months after launching its JioPhone effectively for free — customers could choose to return the phone after three years and get their entire money back — Jio has become India’s largest feature phone company for phones which cost less than Rs. 2000. According to Coutnerpoint Research, the JioPhone had a 27% share in the segment, followed by Samsung at 17%. Micromax, Itel, and Nokia followed in the next three positions.
Jio was an unexpected competitor for Samsung — it hasn’t only managed to become the top phone seller of feature phone in the country, but has also grown the entire segment as well. While the feature phone market had been growing at a sedate 10-12% over the last few year, Jio’s entry caused the entire market to grow 51% year-on-year, effectively meaning that the JioPhone had likely brought feature phones to many who were likely to be first time customers.
While Samsung is still number two in both the smartphone and the feature phone segments, and retains considerable market share in both, it would do well to be careful. The phone manufacturing industry has been home to one of the most dramatic collapses in the corporate world — not so long ago, Nokia was the undisputed leader in the space, with near-total market share. But today it operates on the fringes, barely registering its presence in the industry. Samsung had Nokia-like dominance in the Indian smartphone market — but like the latest results show, it doesn’t take long for winds to change in this industry.