Translated Article: India's Love for Chinese Mobile Phones

Posted by Olivia Zhang on 02 May 2016


Every week, the ChinaCache blog will bring to you one translated article that was originally published in Chinese. This week, we bring you an insightful look into the Chinese mobile phone market. The original article was published here on May 2nd, 2016.


Chinese mobile companies entered the Indian market in 2013, and within that brief time have achieved astounding sales volumes. Chinese mobile makers have overtaken international brands such as Samsung and LG. They have also absorbed marketshare from native Indian brands. According to the latest report on the Indian mobile market by IDC, Chinese mobile phone sales have increased in the Indian marketplace from 5% in 2013 to 22% in 2016. 

Outlook Magazine (India) recently published an article titled "From China With Love". The article analyzes the forces that drives the Indian consumer market, especially youths, to go after Chinese mobile phones. Kuldeep Chengappa, a Bangalore scientist, said that "Chinese mobile phones are competitive due to their functionalities. Additionally, they are affordable. They are easily a great choice."

India's smartphone market has overtaken the US, and is second only to China, in terms of number of subscribers. It currently stands at 220 million subscribers. Due to the increasing saturation of the Chinese domestic market, Chinese mobile phone makers have explored opportunities in India. It is common to see ads for Chinese mobile phones such as Lenovo, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Huawei in various cities in India. Indian consumers generally reflect positively on the Chinese brands. 

Most of the Chinese mobile phones on offer in India are priced between 100 to 300USD; lower than Samsung or Apple, but higher than basic Indian mobile phones (<$100). However, pricing is not the only advantage of Chinese mobile phones. Counterpoint Research's Tarun Pathak believes that "Chinese mobile phones have improved drastically in the areas of hardware capabilities, software flexibility, and UI design. Additionally, their marketing efforts have been very diligent as well."

Samsung, Apple, and most international brands come pre-installed with certain apps on their phones. However, most of these apps are not relevant to Indian consumers. They like to download and delete apps on their phones at will. Chinese mobile phones mostly fulfill that need by eliminating pre-installed apps that are essentially useless.

Chinese mobile phone makers also put in a lot of thought and effort into their brand image and positioning within India. For example, Xiaomi claimed that 75% of its phone parts are manufactured in India -- which fits well with Prime Minister Modi's "Made in India" campaign. Some of Xiaomi's advertising utilizes the slogan "Mi from India", which leads some Indian consumers to believe that Xiaomi is an Indian company.

Mr. Allen, a Shenzhen native who set up a mobile phone parts company in Calcutta, said that "75% doesn't sound like a probable number. Most Chinese mobile phone companies are shipping in parts to be assembled inside India. This form of manufacturing is called Semi-Knocked Down (SKD)." Over the past few years, Chinese mobile phone makers have set up strong supply chains domestically. A number of Indian mobile phone companies even buy parts from China and assemble them in India. 

Although Chinese mobile phone companies are growing stronger in India, they have encountered their share of problems. In 2014, Xiaomi was temporarily banned from doing business by the Indian government due to a copyright suit with Ericsson. It seems like the Indian government is willing to hand down verdicts in cases when foreign companies file disputes within India. 

According to India Times, the Indian government forbade the importation of certain Chinese mobile phones, citing a "lack international mobile phone identification codes, as well as certain safety features required by the Indian government". 

Overall, Chinese mobile phone makers have staked out their own territory in India. Mr Pankaj Mohindroo of India's Mobile Phone Association said that "Chinese mobile phone makers have learned from the experiences of other Chinese companies entering foreign markets. In terms of product quality and customer service, they can compete on an international level. In the smartphone market, they have erased the negative stereotypes of what it means to be 'Made in China'."