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Local brands pack a punch in Indian smartphones, phablets

Micromax, Karbonn in top five bracket, in terms of sales numbers

There is a growing trend among Indian consumers to buy Indian smartphones and save money, rather than splurge on a global brand.

An IDC report found that local firm Micromax was the second biggest vendor in India's 16m unit smartphone market in Q4 2012. Karbonn, which entered the list for the first time, was fifth. Samsung topped the list while Sony and Nokia were third and fourth, respectively.

Another research agency reported similar findings for the 'phablet' segment , which has phones with a screen size of 5 inches or more. Cyber Media Research said that in the Q4 2012, Micromax and Karbonn were second and third behind Samsung. Over 1 million phablets were sold in this quarter in India. While Samsung had a 20% share in sales, Micromax and Karbonn had over 15% and 8%, respectively.

The sales numbers are impressive too. Hari Om Rai, cofounder and director of Lava, says his company sells around 1,00,000 smartphones every month. Micromax claimed it brought 198,000 phablets to India in October, November and December compared to 189,000 Galaxy Note and Note II units imported by Samsung.

"For the price at which they retail, indigenous brands offer better hardware when compared to anything sold by Samsung , LG or Sony in the same range" according to a buyer

For example, Canvas HD, a smartphone from Micromax, priced at Rs 14,000, runs on Jelly Bean, one of the latest versions of Android, and has hardware that "is almost similar to that of Samsung Galaxy S III". The Galaxy S III costs over twice the amount.

Venu Reddy, research director at IDC India, says "the big players like Samsung , LG and Sony do not focus on the value segment due to reasons such as overheads and expectations of profit margins....In a way, indigenous brands are filling this vacuum"

Local brands have their eye on foreign markets too. "It is not going to happen immediately, but we have plans to move our Intel-powered Xolo brand to markets outside India. We have over 200 people in our R&D centres," Rai says. Reddy adds, "I expect Indian brands to gradually move up the ladder. I won't be surprised if some of them steal market share from the likes of Samsung and Sony."

But while local brands have relevant products in the market , the areas where they still lack are brand image and product differentiation - factors that Samsung believes can help in overcoming the local challenge.

"Our portfolio clearly scores on account of the product range, the user experience linked with the Touchwiz user interface , the product design and the features," said Asim Warsi, VP of Samsung Mobile in India.

According to Warsi, the company has no plans to relinquish its dominant position in India. "We do see a lot of customer interest in mid-segment smartphones. As market leaders , we will further evolve this segment with new and innovative devices," he said.

From a Times of India story

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