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NEW DELHI : After grabbing the lion’s share of the smartphone market in India, Chinese companies Xiaomi and Honor have set their sights on winning the PC market amid a boom in demand for laptops following the twin-shift to working and schooling from home.

The Indian PC market is largely dominated by US and Taiwanese companies, but Chinese manufacturer Lenovo has managed to hold its own.

The Hong Kong-based company upstaged Dell to become the second-largest PC brand in India in the June quarter on the back of a 31.6% year-on-year growth in PC shipments, largely driven by strong demand from small and medium businesses, and enterprise and consumer segments, market intelligence firmIDC reported.

The new Chinese entrants—Honor and Xiaomi—have seen encouraging early response in India. Huawei’s Honor MagicBook 15 laptop went out of stock in a recent sale on Flipkart. Xiaomi’s Mi laptops have also been well received by Indian customers.

Xiaomi and Honor’s lowest-priced offerings are targeted at students and professionals with modest work requirements and limited budgets, while the higher-end models are targeted at young professionals, particularly content creators looking for a compact yet powerful notebook with a dedicated graphics card.

These Chinese offerings cost 10,000-15,000 less than any of the rivals.

The Indian PC market still offers a lot of growth potential for new entrants as PC penetration in India is quite low at 11%.

However, replicating Lenovo’s success won’t be easy, said industry experts. And, unlike the smartphone market, the PC industry is largely offline with the business/commercial segment still accounting for half of the overall sales.

“PC segment requires a strong presence in the offline channel and a better connect with consumers. Selling a PC requires a lot of retailing and influencing at a lot of touchpoints," said Jaipal Singh, associate research manager, client devices, IDC India.

He said Lenovo has a strong foothold in the enterprise segment and that the relationship they have built with distributors and channels over time puts them in a strong position.

The new players can do well in the consumer segment as they already enjoy some rapport with individual buyers. But aggressive pricing alone won’t help.

“Chinese brands are well known through their smartphone business and have a significant online presence. The aggressive pricing will get them more exposure, but when people buy PCs, they look at multiple factors like support, after-sales and warranty," said Ranjit Atwal, senior research director, Gartner.

The border clashes with China led to a 9% decline in the market share of Chinese smartphone companies in the June quarter, but Lenovo has remained unaffected. In fact, its market share has only increased, according to IDC.

“We haven’t heard any customers asking specifically for PCs by non-Chinese brands as there is a lot of pressure in organizations to ensure everyone has a laptop to work remotely," said a spokesperson for SIG Systems, which leases laptops to companies.

To be sure, privacy has been an issue for most Chinese brands, including Huawei.

In the case of PCs, too, Chinese brands have had their share of concerns.

“We have seen instances when pre-loaded software by manufacturers come with malware or have certain security flaws," said Rahul Tyagi, co-founder, Lucideus, a cybersecurity firm.

Lenovo, Xiaomi and Honor declined to comment.

The business/commercial segment still accounts for half of overall PC sales.bloomberg
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The business/commercial segment still accounts for half of overall PC sales.bloomberg

Abhijit Ahaskar

Abhijit writes on tech policy, gaming, security, AI, robotics, electronics and startups. He has been in the media industry for over 12 years.
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