New Delhi: Like the famous tech acronym FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google), the Indian smartphone market once had its own buzzword: MILK.
Desi smartphone players Micromax, Intex, Lava and Karbonn (MILK) ruled the roost before the Chinese invasion hit them some 3-4 years back and today, the likes of Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo, Honor, Realme and others have completely milked them.
Check the MILK's smartphone market share in the first quarter of 2019: Micromax at 1.1 per cent, Intex at 0.1 per cent, Lava at 1.2 per cent and Karbonn, 0.2 per cent (according to Counterpoint Research).
Xiaomi had 29 per cent, Vivo 12 per cent, Realme 7 per cent and Oppo 7 per cent in the same January-March quarter.
Have Indian brands given up on resurrection in the face of mounting Chinese competition?
"More or less, yes. The aggression by the China-based brands in terms of investments in marketing and distribution, developing India-specific product portfolio is helping them carve a significant amount of consumer's mindshare in addition to the market share they have been able to capture in last three years or so," explained Navkendar Singh, Research Director (Devices and Ecosystem) India and South Asia, International Data Corporation (IDC).
This is making it very difficult for India-based brands to match the aggression and investments and make any realistic attempt to recapture mind or market share in any price segment.
"It seems they realized this a few quarters back which is why we see Micromax venturing aggressively into TVs and Intex in washing machines, etc," Singh told IANS.
Speaking to IANS last December on the sidelines of the company's launch of its first Notch series of smartphones, Vikas Jain, Co-founder, Micromax Informatics Ltd said that they are going pretty strong in the smaller towns and cities in India.
"We are strong in the Tier II and IV cities with a strong user base. You will see more industry-first features coming into our entry-level smartphones soon. We would also diversify in other consumer electronics segment too," Jain had told IANS.
Micromax Informatics' sub-brand YU later entered consumer electronics with the launch of "YU YUPHORIA" smart TV which, unfortunately, has failed to create a buzz.
A fresh questionnaire sent to Micromax did not elicit any response.
Chinese tech major Xiaomi on Friday announced that its Mi LED TVs have crossed the two-million-sales mark within 14 months of their launch.
According to Shobhit Srivastava, Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research, the Indian market would see exits from some of the Indian smartphone brands this year while some will witness major shift in strategy in smartphone segment.
"We have been estimating market consolidation for Indian brands for a couple of years now. The market has become highly competitive even in the entry-level segment with Chinese players launching smartphones in below Rs 7,000 price segment. This has made resurrection for Indian brands tougher," Srivastava told IANS.
The government intends to make India as the next (and possibly bigger than China) electronics manufacturing hub, and position India as a better alternate manufacturing base for all OEMs.
"To that extent, the programmes and initiatives have been very successful in terms that almost 90 per cent of phones in India are now being assembled/manufactured in the country. The China-based players utilized these schemes and incentives rather quickly primarily in order to remain price competitive in the market," informed Singh.
According to him, we do not see the government giving special incentive plans to domestic brands since it can hurt the overall goal of India's attractiveness as manufacturing base.
"To that extent, there is no way out for India-based players on this front," he lamented.
If you can't beat them, join them.
Srivastava stressed that changing strategy and leveraging the strong distribution system in Tier II and Tier III cities to partner with emerging players will help desi companies survive the intense smartphone war.
"We have recently seen this with Lava offering offline distribution to Chinese brand Honor," he noted.
The white goods space still has space for low-priced brands in Tier II market and beyond, wherein the India-based brands can surely leverage on their brand presence, provided they can give quality products at great pricing.
"A few Indian brands are planning to become the distribution partners to some of these China-based players, which can actually work well for both sides," added Singh.