BUSINESS

Samsung aims for stronger presence in India with 2018 Galaxy A8+

By Won Ho-jung

After losing top-selling spot to Xiaomi for the first time, Samsung plays semi-premium card

  • Published : Jan 30, 2018 - 17:45
  • Updated : Jan 30, 2018 - 17:45

Samsung Electronics is working to strengthen its presence in India’s smartphone market after losing the No. 1 spot in the country to Chinese phone maker Xiaomi in 2017.

According to data from Counterpoint Research, Xiaomi overtook Samsung for the first time in smartphone market share in the fourth quarter of 2017, ending Samsung’s six-year run in the top spot. 

Counterpoint Research put Xiaomi’s market share in the last quarter at 25 percent, and Samsung’s at 23 percent. The surge for Xiaomi came later in the year. For the cumulative year, Samsung stayed ahead with 24 percent of market share compared to Xiaomi’s 19 percent. 

“During the second half (of 2017), players such as Xiaomi were particularly disruptive with an aggressively-priced, broad portfolio taken to market with an effective channel expansion strategy,” said Tarun Pathak, associate director at Counterpoint Research.

On Jan. 20, Samsung released the 2018 model of its mid-premium range phone Galaxy A8+ through an exclusive online-only deal with Amazon India -- the first time that the company had released a new A series phone in India around the same time as its stronghold markets in Korea and Southeast Asia.

Actress Aditi Rao Hydari during the launch of Samsung Galaxy A8+ in India (Samsung)

“We usually reveal the new A series models in January, but release them in India in February or March,” said an official with Samsung.

The Galaxy A series sits between the premium Galaxy S series and the affordable Galaxy J series. In terms of Korean pricing, J series phones typically cost in the 200,000 won ($186) to 300,000 won range, while the A series is in the 500,000 won range, according to the Samsung official.

Although Samsung has been able to retain a strong presence in India with its J series -- four J models landed in the top 10 best-selling models in India in 2017 -- it is facing tough competition in the J series price category from Chinese companies such as Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo, which are aggressively expanding distribution channels.

Industry numbers show that the affordable mid-end segment ($150-$230) was the fastest-growing segment in 2017, with Xiaomi contributing to almost 37 percent of shipments in that segment alone.

Samsung’s releases of mid-range phones including the semi-premium A8+ and the Galaxy On7 Prime, which offer premium-style services at more affordable prices -- may indicate an effort to position Samsung models above the mid-range fray, targeting tech-savvy millennials who like to shop through online channels such as Amazon. 

Released on the same day as the A8+, the Galaxy On7 Prime features Samsung Mall, a visual search service that allows users to take photos of products and buy them online right away. India is the first country to see the rollout of Samsung Mall.

For Samsung, India is a huge and growing market with no competition from homegrown brands, unlike China. According to Counterpoint, in 2017, the top four Chinese brands controlled almost two-thirds of the entire smartphone market, with Apple gaining some traction in the last quarter. 

In addition, China’s smartphone market saw its first-ever decline in smartphone shipments last year, indicating that the market may be nearing stagnation as smartphones become more commonplace.
 
By Won Ho-jung (hjwon@heraldcorp.com)


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