Android Makes Huge Inroads in the Indian Market, Apple Seems Uninterested

About an year ago, I went to a local retail store and asked about the availability of Android phones. He said they don't have 'Android' phones, but they have LG, Samsung, and Nokia phones (he also referred me to a barrage of local brands like Karbonn, Maxx and what-not). That's right, not only does the guy was unaware of 'Android', he didn't even realized that Android was not some mobile phone brand like Samsung or LG. The same store, like most other mobile stores around here, is now plastered with all sorts of advertisements featuring Android phones. That's how fast changes are happening around here.

android leads indian market

Nokia is Fading
Nokia has a special place in the hearts and minds of Indian consumer. They have been here really long and they are the most trusted name among mobile phone manufacturers in India. One of the things that made Nokia special was its massive focus on customer service and its arsenal of mobile phones that spanned across market segments. When I was in college, everyone aspired to own a Nokia smartphone. All that is changing now. Indian mobile phone market is witnessing its biggest ever shakedown.

Having said that, Nokia is not sitting idle either. They are going all out to regain lost market share with the introduction of Lumia range of smartphones and Asha series of low-cost phones. How much this means to Nokia can be gauged from the amount of money they are pouring into advertisements lately. For the past few weeks, I have been bombarded with some sort of Nokia smartphone related advertisement in almost every TV program I watch to almost all websites I visit. Only time will tell how all this is going to pan out.

Android Starting to Gain Serious Momentum
Not so long ago, Samsung was just-another-player in the Indian market. They are now the market leaders in high-margin smartphones segment leaving Nokia in shambles. The phones that people aspire for are not Nokia branded anymore.

According to TOI, the domestic smartphone market witnessed a churn over the last few months with Samsung cornering the highest share in October 2011 in value terms. Samsung's share of 32.3% was the highest by value in the smartphone market, while rival firm Nokia led in terms of volume sales during that month. Globally too, Samsung surged past Apple to become the world's largest seller of smartphones for the third quarter of 2011.

samsung beats nokia in india

Samsung is running the above advertisement all over the web and it says thank you to customers for making it the No.1 smartphone brand in India. Even though the ad does feature phones running Windows OS and home-grown Bada OS, everybody is aware of the fact that, Android single-handedly turned around things for Samsung in India. I will try to name some of Android based devices Samsung is currently selling in India (approximate prices in USD).

Samsung Galaxy Y S5360: Rs. 7650 ($156 USD), Samsung Galaxy Fit: Rs. 9400 ($191 USD), Samsung Galaxy Ace S5830: Rs. 12990 ($265 USD), Samsung Galaxy S LCD I9003: Rs. 18440 ($376 USD), Samsung Galaxy S Plus I9001: Rs. 20650 ($421 USD), Samsung Galaxy S II: Rs.30,900 ($610 USD), Samsung Galaxy Note N-7000: Rs. 32700 ($667 USD) etc. to name a few. Samsung now have an Android smartphone in almost *every* price range. They are apparently beating Nokia in their own game.

If 2011 proved to be a tremendous year for Samsung and Android, I expect 2012 to be even better. I don't think they have even scratched the surface. After all, India is a fast emerging country with over a billion people. If current growth trend continues, mobile phone penetration in India will reach a whopping 97% by 2014, according to market research firm iSuppli.

What is Apple doing in the Indian Market?
I have always wondered why Apple seems least interested in the Indian market. They almost always introduce their flagship devices really late in the Indian market and then, they don't even care to advertise it. Carriers like Vodafone, Aircel et al. is running iPhone 4S ads right now, but absolutely nothing officially by Apple. They just seem uninterested.

That's not all. Apple's latest iPhone 4S 16GB is offered in India at a staggering Rs.45,000 ($915 approximately) while similarly spec'd Samsung Galaxy S2 is priced at around Rs.31,000 ($610 approximately)! That is just plain unfair in my opinion. What is even more interesting is the fact that, iPhone 4S's widely publicized voice assistant feature, Siri, does not work properly in India. Apple's official India website for iPhone 4S does not even mention Siri.

Steve Job's apparent dislike for India is quite famous. In a strongly worded article published in late 2011, noted: "Jobs, clearly, carried his late teens India baggage with him all his life. This is why even when he launched his world-beating products, India was nowhere in his strategic thinking. He treated India almost like a pariah market – and he ended up pricing his products higher in India than elsewhere."