For Samsung Electronics (005930:KS), the bad news in Asia isn’t confined to China. The Korean company has lost its No. 1 spot in the world’s largest smartphone market, research firm Canalys said on Monday. Pushing aside Samsung in China is Xiaomi, a young, Beijing-based company that has the world’s fastest-growing smartphone brand. Samsung, the longtime leader in China, slumped to a 12 percent market share, lagging Xiaomi’s 14 percent.
Samsung’s longtime dominance in the other giant Asian market—India—is under threat, too. Micromax Informatics (MICRO:IN), a company from the Delhi satellite city of Gurgaon that started selling phones only in 2008, is now the top brand in India. According to Counterpoint Research, Micromax has 16.6 percent of the mobile phone market (including both smartphones and feature phones), making it No. 1 in India for the first time.
While Samsung still leads in the more important smartphone market, with a 25 percent share, Micromax is making gains there, too, with 19 percent of the market. “This is a vendor which [the] mobile industry will have to keep an eye on,” Counterpoint said in a statement.
Losing the No. 1 mobile spot in India may not be as big a blow to Samsung as the Korean company’s China setback. But Samsung has reason to worry about losing its smartphone advantage in India because it will have to contend not just with Micromax but with Xiaomi. The Chinese company, which hasn’t been a major force in big, emerging, external markets, is looking to expand in such countries as Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia. Last month, Xiaomi started selling its Mi3 smartphone in India, with handsets priced as low as 13,999 rupees ($232). Xiaomi’s local partner, Flipkart.com, said that about 100,000 people registered to buy the Xiaomi phones, though the company wouldn’t reveal how many phones it sold.
Not as big a prize as China, India is a large and growing market. As shipments of smartphones in China expand by 24 percent this year, IDC forecasts, Indian shipments will nearly double, to 81 million. That’s tiny, compared to China’s 436 million units, but it makes India the second-largest emerging market, one accounting for 7 percent of global shipments. And IDC expects India to remain the fastest-growing market among the BRICs next year, with smartphone demand expected to grow a further 37 percent, to 110 million handsets. As in China, sales in India “are rising because of higher incomes and new low-cost devices,” Bloomberg Industries analysts Praveen Menon and John Butler wrote in an Aug. 3 report.
Micromax and Xiaomi are well-positioned to benefit as smartphone prices continue to fall. The average smartphone in India will sell for $137 this year, according to IDC, a 44 percent drop from prices in 2010. That’s even cheaper than in China, where the retail price for an average smartphone is $211. Of the BRICs, India has the lowest prices for smartphones: In Brazil, the average price is $297; in Russia, it’s $292.