Asia News Sep 26

Samsung launches online-only handsets to ride India’s holiday wave

As the Korean handset giant aims to woo new customers in India's festive season, this could also be a comeback strategy to recover ground ceded to Chinese rivals

by Sankalp Phartiyal
Samsung launches online-only handsets to ride India’s holiday wave
 The Samsung flagship store in Bangalore. Photo: AFP

(ATF) In its renewed aggression to scale up its online presence in India, Samsung will expanding its online-only smartphone range to win over new customers in India's festive season sales.

The South Korean tech giant will launch the new India-made Galaxy F range of handsets at Walmart-controlled online retailer Flipkart on October 8, which would be aimed at meeting burgeoning demand among young Indian online shoppers.

The F series, priced between $200 to $250, will only sell through Flipkart and Samsung's own website.

But while riding the holiday wave with a new range of budget devices appears to be the primary objective of Samsung’s latest online-only push, the company is also hoping to win back ground lost to aggressively marketed Chinese handset brands in recent years.

Besides, the surging anti-China wave in India following a border clash in June, could also provide a fresh boost to this largest non-Chinese smartphone brand’s online ramp-up.

Losing to Chinese brands

Samsung jumped to the No. 2 spot with 26 per cent market share in the second quarter behind Xiaomi’s 29 per cent, according to tech researcher Counterpoint. That's despite Samsung’s diverse and in-house supply chain that helped it avoid product delays suffered by its Chinese rivals during coronavirus lockdowns.

It was in third position with a 16 per cent share in the previous quarter.

Once the unrivalled leader in the world’s second-biggest smartphone market, Samsung has over the past three years lost Indian customers to Chinese brands, whose devices are perceived as better value.

But India still accounts for some $7.5bn in annual retail smartphone revenues for Samsung, according to Counterpoint, making it the company’s biggest market outside of the United States.

It has built what it has described as the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturing plant on the outskirts of New Delhi, where it tests new devices and often assembles them for export.

READ MORE: Samsung aims to expand its India phone portfolio

The Covid-forced lockdowns are also pushing Samsung’s online strategy as restrictions on the movement of people have eliminated foot traffic in physical stores. India still has a massive network of retailers through which handset makers like Samsung sell their wares.

Following in the footsteps of Chinese brands, Xiaomi and Vivo, Samsung is now aiming to bring a significant number of those offline resellers online to push sales and hence, market share.

Already, according to the company, more than 20,000 of its retail partners are being moved online. This will enable customers to purchase Galaxy smartphones from their neighbourhood stores from the comfort of their own home.

That apart, the Covid crisis has also pushed people to use smartphones for everything from online education and digital payments, as well as connecting with friends on video calls.

To build on that momentum, Samsung has launched seven new smartphones since June, three of them retailing for less than $135, including its cheapest Android offering at $75.

Grabbing the big-ticket buyers

According to Asim Warsi, Senior Vice President and Head of E-commerce Business at Samsung India, Indian customers make big-ticket purchases of everything from gold to cars and electronics in the holiday season, which typically begins around October and lasts until the end of the year.

Samsung is building up for a very buoyant and a very strong festive sales period this year and by virtue of that its market share in the overall online space could exceed 30% at the turn of the year, said Warsi.

  • Additional reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal

READ MORE: Chinese firms in India face an uncertain future

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