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Dominance of Chinese smartphones to wane

NEW DELHI : Chinese smartphone makers Xiaomi, Oppo, Realme and Vivo continued to dominate the Indian market in 2022, in spite of the increased scrutiny by regulatory and tax authorities. However, the cautious approach of some of these brands may give competitors, primarily global brands Samsung, Apple, Nokia and Nothing, to grab a bigger slice of the market in 2023, sector watchers said.

According to data from two research firms shared with Mint, Chinese brands continued to hold a majority share in the smartphone segment last year, with sales dipping just a bit compared to 2021.

TechArc said Chinese companies’ share in India was at 68.5% as of December, compared to 71% in December 2021, while Counterpoint Research said their share was only one percentage point lower in January-October 2022 to 75% from 76% in the year ago.

“Weakening of the R brands—Redmi and Realme—will impact Chinese brand share in 2023, and we expect a strong comeback of Samsung in the online space on the back of M series, which has done well,” said TechArc founder Faisal Kawoosa. The target market for Chinese brands has moved beyond entry and basic smartphones, to the premium and luxury segments, which could lead to the market share shift away to global brands, he said.

“Their share may decline in 2023 as these brands will be cautious in their approach and competition will be aggressive and take up share,” said Prachir Singh, senior research analyst at Counterpoint Research.

This is so as the government has been increasing scrutiny of Chinese tech and has banned several Chinese apps following geopolitical tensions between the two countries.

The Enforcement Directorate has seized 456 crore from 119 bank accounts of Vivo India under money laundering prevention rules, while the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence has issued show cause notices to Vivo India for customs duty evasion of 2,217 crore, and demanded 4,389 crore from Oppo India for allegedly evading customs duty.

Xiaomi, too, is facing an ED investigation for foreign exchange regulation violations and its assets worth 5,551 crore were seized in May. Separately, income tax authorities issued a seizure order on its deposit accounts worth 3,700 crore in August. Xiaomi has moved courts challenging the order.

However, despite unfavourable circumstances, Chinese brands will hold fort due to the absence of strong competitive brands besides Samsung that maintained its No. 2 position, with a market share of 16-20% since January 2021.

Indian brands such as Lava and In, according to TechArc’s data, had a tiny share of 1.5% as of December, falling from 2% in December 2021. Samsung is the only non-Chinese global player in the mix that has a significant share of the market, as Indian players are absent from this space, said Singh. “Also, focus of some brands shifted from volume driven entry tier segment to high-priced tiers.”

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