Samsung loses title of India’s No.1 smartphone seller to Chinese vendor

China’s BBK Electronics, which sells its smartphones under brands such as Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus, has emerged as the top smartphone seller in India, dislodging Samsung which had been on top for six years.

Samsung, however, continues to be the top feature-phone brand in the country.

Between its three brands, BBK Electronics had a total market share of over 22% in India’s smartphone market, according to data for the April-June period released by Cyber Media Research or CMR.

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Samsung had a market share of 18.7% in the total number of smartphones sold in India during the quarter.

BBK’s share is split into 13.2% under Vivo and 9.2% under Oppo.

Worryingly for Samsung, it could find itself pushed to the third position soon as another Chinese brand, Xiaomi, increasingly threatens its position at No.2.

In Apr-June, Xiaomi increased its volume market share to 16.2% in the quarter, just a shade below 18.7% share with Samsung.

The Chinese company has been extremely successful with its Redmi 4 and Redmi Note 4 models in the country, providing very similar specifications to Samsung at about 60% of the price.

“Xiaomi was among ace performers in the quarter, not only taking it to No 2 in the Smartphone market in India but also contributing to the revival of 4000 – 6000 price segment of the market.  The segment witnessed 55% growth sequentially,” said CMR.

Samsung also lost the title of being the biggest maker of smartphones in India.

The company was overtaken by Foxconn, which makes phones for various brands such as Xiaomi in India. Foxconn, which also makes phones for Apple, is the world’s biggest manufacturer of smartphones.

Samsung became India’s biggest smartphone brand about six years ago after overtaking Nokia, which used to dominate the country with its N-Series phones that came powered by the Symbian operating system.

However, Nokia made the fatal mistake of ignoring touch-screen devices, and was soon overtaken by nimble competitors Samsung and LG.

However, it seems to be the turn of these Korean companies to be subjected to the same experience from Chinese companies.

The Chinese brands have become very successful in India in the last three years due to their low-cost business model.

While Samsung and LG pay a lot of money to television channels, newspapers and distributors to push their models, the Chinese brands — particularly Xiaomi and BBK’s OnePlus — spend close to nothing on advertising, and keep distributor margins at razor thin levels.

Also unlike Samsung, Xiaomi and OnePlus come out with only 2-3 models a year, while the Korean giant comes up with around 10 models. This helps the Chinese further reduce manufacturing costs by placing longer-term contracts for components such as LCD panels.

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Unlike OnePlus, BBK’s other two brands — Vivo and Oppo — follow the conventional strategy of high-cost distribution and promotions, and have given Samsung a run for its money with strong advertisement and sponsorship campaigns.

Some analysts are worried about the increasing dominance of Chinese brands in India’s smartphone market, and some even believe that the phones could pose a security threat in case of a war between India and China.

Chinese government media has threatened that the country will attack India militarily unless India allows China to build a road near the Sikkim-Bhutan border. The tensions could lead to some impact on the sales of Vivo, Oppo, Xiaomi and Lenovo phones in the country, and benefit Samsung, LG and Nokia.