After months of protests against buying made in China products, India’s online festive season sales kicked off today (Aug. 6) with a host of Chinese smartphone launches.
At 10am on Aug. 6, Redmi was the most prominently displayed brand across Amazon India and Flipkart, the two leading e-commerce platforms in India. Meanwhile, brands owned by Dongguan-based BBK Electronics Corporation—realme, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, and iQOO—were also in the limelight.
Amazon’s Prime Day sale, which is a two-day event this year, and Flipkart’s Big Saving Days, which will end on Aug. 10, are the first in a series of annual online festive season sales in India.
For over a month now, anti-China sentiment has been building up in India. Some blame China for the coronavirus outbreak, while others have been irate over 20 Indian soldiers reportedly getting killed at the Chinese border in the Galwan Valley in mid-June.
Indians have been smashing and junking phones and toys made by Chinese companies, and even vandalising storefronts of brands like Oppo and Vivo. Amid these calls to #BoycottChina, the Narendra Modi government has also banned 59 Chinese apps and their clones since June 29.
Despite all the uproar, Chinese smartphone sales have held on steadfast. OnePlus 8 Pro, which was launched in India on June 18, was sold out within minutes. An Indian smartphone ecosystem without Chinese brands is almost unforeseeable at this point in time, experts said.
No other options
While the nationalist sentiment is high, Indian brands are few and far between. Lava, once a star of India’s smartphone ecosystem, became a laggard in the face of stiff competition. Meanwhile, Noida-based I Kall aroused controversy in February last year when one of its phones reportedly exploded, costing an 8-year-old four fingers.
South Korean phone-manufacturer Samsung is perhaps the only non-Chinese contender in this race. And it did gain some traction in the last quarter as Indians focussed more on purchasing non-Chinese phones, experts say.
However, Chinese brands didn’t take a hit just because of consumer resentment. Covid-19 hit supply chains and factories were shut for all for April, leading to supply constraints. As the market returns to normal, these leading brands are likely to make a comeback.
“Local manufacturing, R&D operations, attractive value-for-money offerings, and strong channel entrenchment by Chinese brands leaves very few options for consumers to choose from,” Shilpi Jain, research analyst at Counterpoint, said.
While there are some deals on iPhones, premium devices like it find only a handful of takers in India’s price-sensitive market. Over two-thirds of the country buys phones that cost less than $200 (Rs15,000), and Chinese brands dominate the segment.
Moreover, in the era of globalisation, it is difficult to label a product based on country of origin as components are sourced from all over. Indian manufacturers are also dependent on China, Taiwan, or South Korea to get most of their components. Many of Cupertino giant Apple’s phones are produced in Chinese factories anyway.
“Even if you buy an iPhone, the bulk of the components come from China. There are a lot of dependencies (on China) in the market,” said Tarun Pathak, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research.