The Samsung Opera House in Bangalore on September 11, 2018. Photo: AFP

As Sino-Indian ties come under strain and with general hostility towards Chinese brands in India, Samsung has now increased its focus on the world’s second-largest smartphone market.

The South Korean handset maker, along with Apple’s contract manufacturing partners Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron, have applied to join India’s $6.6 billion incentive program aimed at boosting local smartphone manufacturing.

India’s IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said the Production-Linked Incentive Scheme is for a period of five years and will offer a range of incentives to companies for goods produced locally. Already 22 firms have applied. He claimed the companies have agreed to export 60% of the locally produced products.

The minister said the program aims to turn India into a global hub of high-quality smartphones and attain greater self reliance. However, Chinese smartphone makers Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus and Realme have stayed away from this program.

The plan is expected to generate 300,000 direct jobs and 900,000 indirect jobs in the next five years. Indian handset makers Lava and Micromax have also applied for the program.

Sales improve

Meanwhile, for the April-June quarter Samsung regained its second spot with 26% market share, next only to Xiaomi (29%), according to Counterpoint Research. In the March quarter it accounted for only 16% and it was trailing behind Xiomi and Vivo.

In the premium segment (above 30,000 rupees) OnePlus 8 had a total market share of 19% followed by Vivo V19 (15%) and Samsung Galaxy A71 (12%). Apple held the fourth and fifth spots with the iPhone SE 2020 (10%) and the iPhone 11 (7%).

The share of Chinese brands in India’s smartphone market dropped to 72% in the quarter, compared with 81% in the first three months of this year, as leading brands such as Oppo, Vivo and Realme faced a supply crunch amid rising anti-China sentiment.

On the other hand Samsung was comparatively better off and reached almost full (94%) pre-Covid manufacturing capacity by the end of June.

The fall in market share came on the back of a big decline in smartphone shipments during the quarter. That figure fell 51% year-on-year to around 18 million units, as manufacturing facilities and sales were suspended during the first 40 days of the lockdown.

It improved in June due to pent-up demand as well as a push from brands.

Of late Samsung has also been concentrating on the entry and mid-level segments to drive volumes and trying to position itself as an alternative to Chinese brands.

It had recently launched Galaxy M01 Core, which is also its most affordable phone in India at a starting price of 5,499 rupees. It is aiming to attract first time smartphone users with the promise of accessibility and affordability.