Updated – June/2020, Originally Written in 2018.
There’s no denying that Chinese players such as Xiaomi, Realme, Lenovo, Oneplus, Tecno, Oppo, and Vivo, etc. are dominating the Indian mobile market.
While some of them have had tremendous success in the country, others have not been so lucky, like the LeEco, Coolpad, Gionee, and Meizu.
More Chinese Brands Are Coming to India in 2019 and 2020
India is the world’s second-largest smartphone market that makes it attractive for brands looking for expansion.
Also, the Chinese market is saturated and has extreme competition. It is even more competitive than the Indian market.
Looking at some Chinese brands getting success in India; more Chinese players want to gamble on the Indian market.
iQOO Enters India – Launches Premium 5G Phone
iQOO is the latest entrant to the Indian market and has launched its first phone – iQOO 3 in March 2020. The phone comes with top of the line specs like Quad-Cameras, 5G, 12GB Ram, and Snapdragon 865 processor.
The brand will target the premium segment and wants to reduce the share of Apple and Samsung in the premium market. But it is also a threat for BBK electronic’s own brand Oneplus.
Realme Storms Indian Market – Challenges Xiaomi
In November 2018, a new Chinese brand Realme stormed the Indian market with the launch of Realme 1. The brand was earlier launched as a sub-brand of Oppo mobiles but was later made a standalone brand by the parent company BBK electronics.
The Realme brand sells most of its phones from online channels and rivals Xiaomi by launching new phones at aggressive prices. The brand is beating Xiaomi by offering class-leading specs and that too at a low price.
Also, the brand has ventured into Fitness bands, Headphones, and other gadgets to have a strong presence in India.
Invasion of iVoomi in Budget Segment
Recently, a Chinese company named iVoomi entered the Indian market with the iV505 smartphone aimed at the entry-level segment.
The phone comes with good specs and a low price. It uses the success formula Xiaomi used to eat-up the market share of rivals.
In addition to that, the report also claims that the Chinese market is doomed, and there’s no growth in the country from the past six months.
The smartphone and even the feature phone business in India is significant and can absorb more players.
With that said, the upcoming Chinese brands are aiming at feature phone business as well.
Recently, Qualcomm announced the latest Snapdragon 205 Mobile Platform, which can help OEMs to launch feature phones with VoLTE support. It is expected to help JIO to propel growth and gain more rural customers.
Also, there is a demand for low-cost phones from telecom operators. Reliance JIO, Bharti, and Vodafone are looking to partner with mobile brands to deliver cheap 4G handsets to their subscribers.
We will get into the details of new Chinese mobile brands launching in India in a minute but let me first tell you how Chinese brands have been toying with Indian buyers.
New Wine in Old Bottle
I daily track new phone launches and write about them, and have been doing this since 2013. One very interesting thing about the BBK electronics I have observed over the years that I wish to share.
When the OnePlus was launched it was marketed as a small Chinese company with no links to BBK electronics. A story was made and sold to buyers making them connect to the brand as an underdog. It was one of the most amazing marketing bushwacks.
BBK electronics has two similar brands Oppo and Vivo in India, they sell nearly the same phones and these come with similar design and features but with different names.
Oppo introduced the water-drop notch on the Oppo F9 Pro, Vivo immediately launched V11 Pro with the same design. Later, Oneplus launched the Oneplus 6T with the same design and waterdrop notch. I can write several such examples where one of the BBK electronics brands introduced something and others just copied.
Buyers were made to believe that all of this is different and there is a lot of effort by each individual brand. But under the surface, it is more marketing than real product differentiation.
BBK electronics smartly launched Realme in India to fight Xiaomi’s presence in the entry-level phones and mid-range. Realme has an Indian CEO as the face of the company to outsmart the rival Manu Kumar Jain whom Xiaomi has used as the face of the brand in India.
Mr. Sheth, Realme CEO recently said that Realme is an Indian start-up in a Youtube video when the Chinese companies are facing backlash due to the killing of Indian soldiers at the Galwan valley.
With the launch of the iQOO brand now the BBQ electronics have 5 brands in India – Oppo, Vivo, Oneplus, Realme, and iQOO.
There is nothing wrong with this strategy but as consumers we shouldn’t be mislead with wrong narratives.
Tecno, Topwise and Bullit Group Invades
The report also said that Africa’s leading brands, Transsion Group’s Tecno and Infinix brands would debut in India in mid-2017.
As we already know, Tecno and Infinix have launched several new mobiles in the country.
Tecno has taken the retail route for expansion, while the Infinix has partnered with Flipkart to drive growth.
Tecno is a Chinese Mobile brand that has focused so far in the Africa market and has been able to grow with it’s popular Tecno Camon C8 smartphone. They also have sub-brands like Phantom and Boom.
As stated above, Tecno mobile has launched operations in the Indian market on 17th April 2017, and they have launched 5 new smartphones.
Infinix, on the other hand, is a relatively new company founded in 2013. It has a presence in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
They have some popular product series like the ZERO, NOTE, HOT S, and HOT.
Also, the famous UK-based Bullitt Group, who incidentally also has the licensee of Land Rover and Kodak Mobiles is also planning to launch phones in India.
Already, we have seen the military-grade Cat 60 and Kodak Ektra smartphones launch in India.
Update (July/2017) – Topwise launched 2 new smartphones in the Indian market in July 2017. The brand launched the Infinix Note 4 and the Infinix Hot 4 Pro priced below Rs. 10,000, in the Indian market.
LePhone, Centric, Nuu, 10.OR Debuts in India
Recently another new player from China called Lephone made a debut with their first smartphone Lephone – W7 on 13th April 2017.
It is also worth noticing that four players out of the top five in the Indian mobile arena are Chinese with Xiaomi holding second place, followed by Oppo, Vivo, and Lenovo.
Samsung (Korean brand) holds the largest share in the Indian mobile market. In fact, it is a tie-up with Xiaomi as per the latest report from IDC.
Recently, an Indian brand called Centric launched 4 new smartphones in the market. Furthermore, we are expecting Smartron ( Sachin Tendulkar to have a tie-up with them) is also planning new launches.
Apart from the above mentions, another smartphone brand called Nuu Mobiles, backed by the HongKong based Sun Cupid Group is launched in India on 23rd August 2017.
Notably, the brand has launched 4 new smartphones in India – X5, M3, Q626 and Q500, all priced below Rs 15,000 and will sell these through retail stores.
A new Chinese smartphone brand called the 10.or (pronounced as Tenor) has launched 2 new phones in the Indian market, exclusive to Amazon. The smartphones (10.or E) were unveiled on 6-Sept-2017 and will be available exclusively on the Amazon website.
Lastly, there are also reports that Sharp can make a debut in India, in collaboration with Foxconn to launch mid-range phones.
To add to the above, Foxconn has also done a tie-up with the Infocus brand to make phones for them, while Infocus will cater to marketing and distribution.
There have been concerns raised by several organizations and people to Ban Chinese Products in India and especially after the Covid-19 pandemic.
*Foxconn is also a large Taiwanese manufacturer, makes iPhones.