Is COVID an opportunity for Samsung to unseat Xiaomi? Case Study

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Samsung, the previous smartphone market leader, have been reclaiming lost ground, by beating its Chinese rivals like Realme, Oppo and Vivo. Research firm Counterpoint Research says that the Korean brand now holds the second spot, only a couple of percentage points behind Xiaomi.

The Indian smartphone market nearly halved (from around 36 million units) within the half-moon. Only around 18 million units were sold all across the country during the last three months. This was mostly thanks to the impact of the COVID-induced lockdown.

According to Counterpoint, Samsung’s share witnessed a gentle decline over the last several quarters falling from 23 percent in Q1 of 2019 to 16 percent in Q1 of 2020. The brand now holds 26 percent, while Xiaomi commands 29 percent of the market.

While Samsung has surged, the general share of Chinese brands within the Indian smartphone market has fallen. The share of Chinese brands fell to 72 percent in Q2 2020, from 81 percent in Q1 2020.

Counterpoint attributes this to the unsteady supply of major Chinese brands (like Oppo, Vivo and Realme) and delayed import of products from the country alongside the growing anti-China sentiment because of the border conflict.

Also, while rivals struggled to launch new products and lots decided to postpone new launches, Samsung reportedly launched over nine new models across price segments over the previous couple of months. The most recent addition in Samsung’s line of products is Galaxy M01 Core priced at Rs. 5,499. The brand has been trying to strengthen its value portfolio amid news of Reliance launching accessible Android devices in partnership with Google.

Samsung had claimed the highest spot within the Indian market after dethroning erstwhile leader Finnish smartphone brand Nokia around 2013. The brand lost its place to Xiaomi in 2017 and has struggled to reclaim and hold on to the highest ever since.

Can Samsung now reclaim the highest spot? Also, will the impact of the anti-China sentiment sustain over the approaching quarters?

Shipments have shrunk across brands. In October last year, Samsung had announced that it had ended its mobile production in China. Samsung’s non reliance on China for production could have played a task in placing the brand during a better position.

Shubhajit Sen, founding partner, A Priori Consultants (former CMO, Micromax), opines that it won’t be right to predict long-term trends supported one quarter. Especially because it (the quarter) has witnessed numerous variables just like the Coronavirus pandemic, its economic impact, the Indo-China border conflict, among other things.

“It has been a reasonably bizarre quarter and therefore the category has shrunk by 50 per cent. When the category itself has seen such an enormous change and offline sales were really affected, we’d like to proceed with caution when discussing market share. The impact of the anti-China sentiments might happen within the margins, but it won’t have any major impact,” says Sen.

Dubey says that as a corporation , Xiaomi fared better than most others. “They didn’t fire people, supported their dealers, etc. Manu Jain (Xiaomi’s global VP and Xiaomi India MD) actually had some extent when he said that Xiaomi was more Indian than many Indian companies,” Dubey signs off.

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