Indian handset brands seek overseas presence

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
02 Apr 2012

While much of the “low cost smartphone” discussion centers on Nokia and Huawei or ZTE, these firms are in reality targeting the midrange of the cell-phone space. As the current feature phone category morphs into basic smartphones, new vendors and component suppliers will come into play, and India will get its chance to create a home-grown mobile industry at last.

According to forecasts from NPD In-Stat, low cost Android smartphones – those currently priced under $150 - will take 80% of the total smartphone market in Africa, India and China by 2015. Unit shipments of low cost Android devices will reach 340 million worldwide in 2015. At the high end of this subsection will be Nokia, Samsung, ZTE and Huawei, while at the low end there will be numerous grey market vendors using unlicensed components. But the face of the bulk of this segment was seen recently when Chinese wireless baseband supplier Spreadtrum agreed to invest $10 million in Indian handset manufacturer Micromax. As a result it will also become one of Micromax's preferred chipset suppliers.

This highlights an increasingly common pattern – the low cost chip suppliers from China and Taiwan, such as MediaTek and Spreadtrum, increasingly working with Indian OEMs as well as those in their own countries, and moving up from feature phones into affordable Android or even Windows handsets with 3G. These partnerships will target their home territories and other emerging markets, and over time may even penetrate the prepaid sectors in more developed mobile economies, putting pressure on the high volume, big name suppliers like Samsung and Nokia (currently market leaders in China and India respectively) But the situation is fragmenting, initially in featurephones and later in smartphones.

Gartner says that China's G'five and Indian manufacturers Karbonn Mobile and Micromax now occupy top five positions in India's device league table, behind Nokia and second placed Samsung. Local players are weakening global brands at the low end and are starting to move up towards the midmarket, and even into non-Indian territories. “The entry of Indian mobile handset players focusing on low end, value conscious consumers has intensified competition in the Indian mo-bile device market,” says principal analyst Anshul Gupta.

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