Tag Archives: India

The Indian Smartphone Market in a Nutshell

As Apple revenue falls for the second year in a row, many publications and sources are reacting as if this is a crisis in the making. While Apple has indeed sold fewer iPhones as compared to previous years, its smartphone business is not suffering nearly as much as Samsung, which has seen long falls in the sales of its flagships, the ‘S’ and ‘Note’ line. While a lot of this can be explained by the general smartphone slump in the developed world- people buy technology that is closer to perfect and so upgrade less often- both companies have taken major hits from Chinese competitors. Namely: Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo.

India, on the other hand, is one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world. ‘Desi’ companies had, for a time, made successful leaps in the market. Companies like Micromax and Lava were very popular between the early to mid-2010s. And then, it all fell apart(detailed breakdown from Indian Tech Youtuber ‘iGyaan’). To avoid a complicated- and convoluted- explanation of why that happened, I shall briefly summarise. Indian companies went to OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) based China and bought pre-designed, poorly functioning, cheap products and branded their company logos onto them. For a long time, these were the only available budget options on the Indian market. This allowed them to build a reputation as superior to the relatively poor Samsung devices. However, Chinese competitors entered the market having been wildly successful in their home market. Thus, they used their larger resources to squash the “quick-buck” model of their Indian counterparts, eventually hitting it big in the country. In fact, Vivo- a former OEM for some Indian companies- decided they’d rather sell their own branded hardware in India.

Prior to all this, Samsung owned the attention of Indian consumers, but not anymore. Although, their market share is still higher, but rapidly shrinking. While they have made commendable efforts in the country, their product- like its Indian competition- lacks quality. With a reputation for inconsistent performance and aesthetically unappealing design, they have seen many users flock to their Chinese counterparts.

These firms have been successful because they provide great value with genuinely phenomenal design and features relative to the prices of their phones. And in India, price dictates consumer preferences. Due to measly wages provided to the majority of the population, people require as much quality as they can possibly receive for the lowest figure possible. Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei are large companies that have performed stellar in their homeland of China, and so have the backing of solid R&D departments that have managed to build budget flagships that boast heavy specifications, with just the right compromises irrelevant to the tastes of the Indian consumer.

For example, Xiaomi delivers a decent camera experience. While it does not hold a candle to the heavyweights like Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Pixel, and Samsung’s ‘S’, it is a world of difference from the offerings of the budget market just two years ago, which were akin to taking pictures with a potato. With all these companies, you would find moderately strong chipsets, hefty batteries, solid constructions of metal and/or glass. It is important to stress that these do not compete with the flagships. They do well to tarnish the mediocrity wrapped in plastic that was once promoted as a smartphone in our country.

This cleverly combined with great marketing strategies that capitalize on young Indians’ requirement for impressive sounding “tech specs”. Want a 40 Megapixel camera? Want a massive 5000 ‘MaH’ battery? The flagships only offer 12MP and 3500 MaH. Many youths don’t understand that the quality of the individual parts come into play, as well as the heavy reliance on powerful software to back it, which many of these budget phones lack. Instead, they are enamored by the ‘specs’. To their credit, these ‘specs’ are not half bad.

Chinese OEMs initially made their foothold in the country by selling online, often partnering with Amazon and Flipkart. This removed many costs of physical trade, allowing them to undercut their competitors by large margins. Using that as a stepping stone, the now popular companies have opened many physical stores in the various cities across India. It seems that a ‘Mi’ or ‘Vivo’ billboard is on every other street. ‘Samsung’, on the other hand, is more and more uncommon

So where does this leave the Silicon Valley behemoths? Here, Apple’s products are akin to Louis Vuitton jumpers and Balenciaga sneakers, and so will never really compete in a market where most people have an income equivalent to a few thousand dollars, and Google, while not having the same reputation, matches Apple in pricing. It doesn’t help that these players suffer heavy tariffs. Their products are not even assembled in the country, costing $400 more to consumers than their counterparts in the USA. It can be assumed that they are looking to attract wealthy buyers, and not focused on the “budget” market. As of now, the only true competitor against the Chinese giants is Samsung. They attempt to look pretty in every price bracket. Their prices aren’t affected by tariffs (Assembled in India), and they have attempted to make a comeback with bang-for-buck offerings. They really are catching on, even emphasizing online sales. However, with a public already swept off their feet by Chinese Smartphone makers, the situation looks grim. It seems Xiaomi and Huawei are all set to rule the Indian mobile phone landscape- for now.

[1] https://www.igyaan.in/163493/why-indian-smartphones-lost/

The Partition of India- My Thoughts

Seven years ago, I wrote a small piece for the DNA Ya! children’s newspaper published by DNA. I gave an account of my family’s history with the Partition of 1947. In it, I recounted the story as was told to me by my relatives. Having matured since then I wanted to revisit it. The piece of writing is short and quite dated in that it is very clearly been written by a child. What stands out the most is a lack of understanding pertaining to the issue itself. I never fully comprehended the horror and tragedy of the situation until now. As a teenager, I still do not have any hate for any side as I am now more comfortable with the idea that the world is not black and white. My reflection on this issue is more personal. As I have gained curiosity about my ancestry in the past few years. I have always wondered what it would be like to go back to my ancestral home and learn more about the origins of my family. For now, I think that this write- up provides a young and unique, if naive perspective on this matter.

The degeneration of brotherhood (1)

The New Mumbai Coastal Road: My Thoughts

As a Mumbaikar, I have lived and commuted in the city for 17 years, regularly doing so for 13 of them. My journeys have almost always been conducted in cars. Unfortunately, I do not think that I have the gumption to make it through a day on the Indian public transport system. While the overcrowding of trains and the chaotic saturation of cars, people and animals in seemingly unplanned, ancient streets provoke an image with an exotic allure for tourists, it is an inefficient, frustrating tiresome reality for commuters to live through daily. Not to mention the dangers of having dozens of people hanging out of the doors of the train carriages and drivers packed in lanes within inches of the other vehicles. Over the years, I have noticed the level of congestion increase. Commutes that were once 20 mins long have now doubled due to the creeping slow traffic. All the cars contribute to a significant amount of noise pollution and accidents every day. According to Conserve Energy Future (CEF) website noise pollution can be caused by poor urban planning and transportation. Both factors are in play in Mumbai, among others. These can cause damaging effects such as hearing problems, health issues such as on cardiovascular health and impacts on ecology. The website also attributes troubles in communication due to noise pollution. Although, usually such troubles stem from commuters themselves, starting with one frustrated driver mouthing off on another and usually ending in an Indian UFC fight night in the middle of an already congested street. Instead of professional fighters you have a 5 feet tall, open shirted cab driver with his sunglasses hanging off his neck against your portly dad who is out of breath before he’s gotten out of his Honda Civic. Brawling Mumbaikars aside, there are multiple reasons for further developing roads, highways and bridges to ease the flow of traffic.
A city’s roads are comparable to rivers. Due to a growing population, the pressure builds up. To ease such pressure new roads, must be constructed. The Bandra- Worli Sea Link opened in 2009, demonstrated the potential for success with such roads. It connected North Mumbai with South Mumbai and drastically shortened the travel time between homes and places of interest such as the distance between Colaba and the airport. The proposed four- lane coastal road project will span the length of the city’s coast facing the Arabian sea and will be built in two phases. Phase 1 would involve construction from Princess Street up to the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link and Phase 2 would extend towards Kandivali. There are crucial advantages to constructing such a road. The most obvious include easing the heavy volume of traffic on the roads currently being experienced. This would also decrease the number of vehicle collisions and the negative externalities of densely populated roads. The other is to further connect the city and create more job opportunities for people living across it as it may become easier to get a job that is of a further distance from one’s place of residence due to being able to waste less time on the road. This is also an important step in developing the city to compete with the world’s Alpha cities. Such a road would also bring with it multi- storey car parks and recreational areas around it. This would help develop the city’s infrastructure.
On the other hand, it could have some negative implications. To complete the project, approximately 1% of Mumbai’s mangroves would be destroyed. While this appears to be a small percentage it could have a negative impact on the oceanic ecosystems that rely on these mangroves to survive. Mumbai has also faced major flooding in the past which is directly linked to the receeding numbers of mangroves in the waters around the city. Most notably, the floods that took place in 2005 devastated the city. By further removing them it may only add to that problem. Apart from a negative impact on the environment, I have some concerns to do with the quality of infrastructure. The project is one of the most ambitious the city has faced due to the scale of the construction and the complexity of it. This could result in an inconsistent construction whose effects could be amplified by the size of the project. This could mean that any potential issues may disable significant percentages of the road. In the past, parts of the Mumbai metro have collapsed due to being weak and having to face the monsoon, thus collapsing under the pressure of the rains.

This project is very ambitious. I believe that it is possible that it may not be as successful as predicted due to the incredibly confusing logistics. However, should it succeed, it will further push Mumbai on a competing path with major world cities. It will demonstrate India’s prowess in structural development to the world.