Tech Talk | ‘Brand Conscious’ Indians Cheer for Apple While Domestic Smartphone Brands Struggle to Impress


Tech Talk

Tech giant Apple opened its first two stores in Mumbai and Delhi this week. While the over-excited crowd tells the tale of dedicated Apple customers, making the opening event of a store a huge success, the fact is Indians don’t show less than half of the excitement for the local brands, especially when it comes to smartphones.

The talks about the opening of these two stores began to feature on social media almost a week before. Finally, when the Apple team came to India, the crowd gathered in front of the store, taking selfies with CEO Tim Cook flashing their iPhones. One man also brought his vintage Macintosh model to the opening event.

Most of us have heard that India is a brand-conscious country, and it is not limited to luxury clothes only. Apple products, even iPhones, are quite costly. But still, the company sold 2 million iPhones in India in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Some believe that a section of the buyers is totally in love with the brand and that’s why they buy iPhones, while others who could have bought it just to show off as they consider owning an iPhone as a status symbol.

But there are several reasons which attract a specific section of the buyers. This includes better resale value, sophisticated product design, security and privacy—which are Apple’s main trump card. It is also said iPhones have a series of processors that apparently deliver better and smoother performance compared to Android phones.

Some users also buy iPhones because it lasts longer. Huge software updates every year is also a point to be noted. For example, iPhone 6s debuted in 2015 with iOS 9 and received software updates until 2021 with iOS 15. However, with iOS 16 Apple decided to end the software support for the model.

Also, why people buy such expensive phones could be a result of the availability of easy EMI options. A few years ago, it was difficult for Indians to afford a Rs 70,000 worth of phone. But now, if they want, they can easily look at the EMI options on e-commerce sites and select whichever tenure suits them.

However, still, iPhone is yet to beat the popularity of Android in India. Market research revealed that the top smartphone brands in India in the fourth quarter of 2022 were Korean giant Samsung, followed by China’s Vivo, Xiaomi, Oppo and Realme. Among all these brands, almost after five years, Xiaomi lost its lead in Q4 and slid to the third place with 5.5 million unit shipments.

So, there is a clear divide. While the majority belongs to Android users in India, who are holding one of these top market dominators in their hands right now, another section of buyers is with iPhones and other brands.

But this proves that Indians are less interested in local smartphone brands such as Micromax, which surpassed Samsung a few years ago, but now has less than 1% market share, and also Lava, which recently has refocused its efforts on the smartphone segment in an overcrowded market. There are also other Indian brands like Karbonn, Xolo and Intex.

Some people lack interest in these Indian brands because of trust issues. People are concerned about these companies not spending enough on R&D, lack of features, quality issues and not producing competitive enough devices. The focus has been on making a cheaper phone, while Indian buyers are willing to pay enough for a quality smartphone.

But now the hope is that the Indian brands can make a comeback with the help of the Production Linked Incentive Scheme. Lava and Bhagwati (Micromax) are among those domestic companies which received approval for mobile phone manufacturing under the scheme, while the latter became the first company earlier this year to receive disbursement under the PLI scheme for IT hardware.

So, these companies are likely to significantly increase their manufacturing activity and then with aggressive pricing, as well as competitive smartphones they are expected to make a better percentage of market share.

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