Handset makers design, price to beat Indian polyphony

Handset makers design, price to beat Indian polyphony

By Reuters

Mumbai: Mobile handset makers keen to increase market share in India are stepping on the gas, investing in design studios and launching niche retail stores.

India is the fastest-growing mobile market adding 6-7 million customers per month and approaching the 200-million subscriber mark.

Pravin Prashant, executive editor, Voice & Data, which tracks the Indian telecoms sector, expects mobile handsets sales to grow by 40-50% in 2007/08.

In terms of geographical coverage, only 50-65% area has been covered, while teledensity is only around 20%. Ganesh Ramamoorthy, principal research analyst with Gartner Inc., estimated a 28% compounded annual growth of mobile production through to 2011 in India.

Priced by design

Nokia announced its first design studio in India on 1 August, to explore trends and themes in the country. Its Indian unit sold 25 million handsets in 2006, 80% was in India. India is Nokia’s third largest market and is set to become second largest by 2010.

Nokia’s Indian market share is estimated at around 50% and Motorola’s around 11 %, Voice & Data said in a survey. In April, Motorola launched Motostores in India.

“We want to establish a strong connection with the Indian customer and give them a more involved experience," said Lloyd Mathias, director marketing with Motorola India. “In India the keys to success are innovation, new launches, emotional connect and distribution network."

“Over the last two years we have intensified our efforts dramatically. The Moto(Razr) was a huge success and is a recognisable symbol of what Motorola stands for," Mathias said.

Korean rivals are playing catch up with the bigger boys. LG Electronics, is aiming to grow 400% in sales in the next 18 months, said Anil Arora, who heads the GSM business in India for LG.

While Samsung Electronics Co. is focussing on the mid and high-end segments and relaunching its Samsung Mobile Privilege Partner platform, a franchisee-based network of close to 100 stores.

“From the beginning of the year to now we have more than doubled our sales," said Asim Warsi, head of marketing at Samsung India.

Despite India’s price sensitive market, most see lower end handsets as made for entry level and rural areas. Most outsource a share of the low cost phone production to vendors and focus on high-end phones to sustain margins, said Gartner’s Ramamoorthy.

“Low-cost phones are entry points. Get a low-income consumer first glued to a cell-phone, then move the user to medium and high-end phones, as the user gets more comfortable," he said.

Prashant said that margins would be higher for the premium phones but “definitely there are margins even at the lower-end."