India’s mobile frenzy: when numbers dance to festive tunes

  • Smartphones and smart wearables were particularly in high demand during this year’s festive season sales. What were the main factors influencing consumer choices?

Preeti Hoon
Published17 Dec 2023, 12:32 PM IST
‘Make in India’, ‘premiumisation’, and ‘sustainability’ have been some of the top buzzwords in the smartphone industry this year
‘Make in India’, ‘premiumisation’, and ‘sustainability’ have been some of the top buzzwords in the smartphone industry this year

In the vibrant tapestry of Indian celebrations, numbers now play a starring role. As the most populous nation globally, India has become an irresistible destination for global brands seeking to capitalise on its immense potential. And what better time to captivate the Indian consumer than during the festive season?

This annual shopping extravaganza for brands transcends mere discounts and deals; it’s about tapping into the festive spirit and converting potential into tangible results. Customers, who diligently save throughout the year, unleash their spending power during this period, turning it into the ultimate sales bonanza.

Amazon’s Xperience Arena report weaves a compelling narrative. At its Great Indian Festival this year, demand for 5G smartphones skyrocketed by over 60%. Premium smartphones, priced above Rs30,000, witnessed 2.5X more sales than last year, indicating a significant shift towards high-end devices. Also, 70% of all smartphone orders came from tier 2 and smaller towns.

In this festive battle for supremacy, brands such as realme India and Xiaomi India are strategically positioning themselves. realme, with its audacious target of 5 million smartphone sales, is on the offensive, while Xiaomi remains steadfast in its focus on efficiency and sustainability. Oppo India and OnePlus are equally poised for a substantial surge in sales, capitalising on the festive fervour.

Festive fervour

According to key players in the Indian mobile handset market, smartphones and smart wearables were particularly in high demand this season. But what factors influence these choices? 

“Festivals hold significant importance in India, serving as occasions for people to create a fresh atmosphere at their home, and they eagerly wait to buy new electronics and upgrade,” said Anuj Sharma, chief marketing officer, Xiaomi India. “In today’s era, consumers have a wide array of options when it comes to making technology purchases. They typically make decisions based on either rational considerations or emotional preferences.”

Tao Zhang, chief marketing officer at realme India, says that when it comes to the festive season, excitement and planning come first for the company’s festivities planning. 

“The festive months are the ideal time for a brand to emotionally engage with its target audience. Now is the moment to shine, establish a connection, and make an impact that lasts longer than the lights and decorations,” he said.

The form factor: What’s in

Foldable mobile phones have taken centre stage this year, with Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, and Oppo offering customers a plethora of choices in various price segments, from about Rs3,500 to Rs1,65,000. 

“Our commitment to growing the foldable category is evident with over 4 years of R&D in bringing out our latest flip phones,” said Damyant Singh Khanoria, chief marketing officer, Oppo India. “Flip phones of the past era suffered from various drawbacks like low battery life, poor durability, and inadequate performance. However, the new crop of flip phones provides the experience of flagship devices with flagship processors, camera, and improvised battery life.”

realme India’s Zhang said the brand is decisively taking time to introduce the new technology. “We are all aware that the smartphone market is developing at a fast pace and there’s increasing customer interest in cutting-edge technologies like foldable phones,” he said. “We recognize the excitement in this trend, but we think it’s important to introduce new technology to the market gradually to give users the greatest possible experience.”

The mega trends

‘Make in India’, ‘premiumisation’, and ‘sustainability’ are some of the top buzzwords in the mobile phone industry. 

“The tech industry is still growing, and the part that makes smartphones is changing a lot. This change is influenced by important things like more phones being made in India, people liking middle-priced good phones more, and a new focus on being eco-friendly,” said Zhang of realme India.

That apart, he expects artificial intelligence and 5G to revolutionise the smartphone industry. “AI will enhance language translation, online shopping, and financial management, and 5G will offer faster speeds and lower latency for speedy downloads, video streaming, and gaming,” Zhang predicted.

According to Khanoria of Oppo India, premiumisation has been the prevailing trend this year. “There’s a notable shift in smartphone demand reflected in increasing ASPs (average selling price). Consumers have been showing a heightened preference for high-end products that seamlessly integrate into their lifestyles,” he said.

The celeb touch

Brands strategically chose a mix of safe and unconventional celebrity endorsements for their festive campaigns this year. Oppo India roped in internationally acclaimed director SS Rajamouli, veteran actress Zeenat Aman, and the young Janhvi Kapoor to target Gen Z audiences. 

On the other hand, realme India played it safe by enlisting Shah Rukh Khan, who revived his brand value with consecutive blockbusters this year. Xiaomi India made a bold move with actor Pankaj Tripathy alongside actress Disha Patani. OnePlus took a distinctly different approach, eschewing celebrities and focusing on its storyline for its OneCelebration campaign.

The digital surge: where ad dollars flow

This year, the battle for eyeballs shifted, with traditional media taking a backseat to the digital wave. 

According to the TAM AdEx India report, smartphone advertising expenditure on digital platforms surged 320% during this year’s festive period (August-November), as compared with the same period last year. Radio and television followed at 174% and 79%, respectively, while print suffered a 29% decline.

Xiaomi went on a TV spending spree, splurging 7,246 times higher than last year. realme followed suit, increasing its traditional media investment by 9.8 times. Radio remained Apple’s domain, while OnePlus topped the charts in print. But it was realme that emerged as the digital king, clocking a staggering 2,694% growth, while Samsung led in ad spending, shelling out 422% more than it did last year.

“From an advertising perspective, 40-45% spends happen during the festivities as there’s an inflow of money in the form of perks… money starts flowing in for rural consumers as well,” said Ashish Bhasin, founder, The Bhasin Consulting Group. 

“Mobile is now an integral part of desirable goods and a category where people spend irrespective of socio-economic class. Mobile is an achievable upgrade,” he said, adding that while overall media budgets were up by 10-12% this year, budgets for digital ads had increased by 20-25%.

Vikram Sakhuja, group CEO at Madison Media, said ‘digital’ has surpassed traditional media and finds more relevance during festive times due to its reach. “All channels are important, but the ones that drive short-term sales are more relevant near Diwali. That is why digital scores,” he said.

“But the real question to ask is what is driving the growth. It is more social, performance and e-commerce and conventional branding; advertising is less,” Sakhuja said. “Consumers have held on to purchases closer to Diwali. But my sense is that it has been fair, but not great.”

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First Published:17 Dec 2023, 12:32 PM IST
HomeIndustryIndia’s mobile frenzy: when numbers dance to festive tunes

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