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

Mobile phone handset maker Samsung has made rapid strides in the Indian market and has now pipped leader Xiaomi for the top slot, says market research firm Counterpoint.

In the July-September quarter, the South Korean firm garnered 24% of the Indian smartphone market, against Xiaomi’s 23%. In the year-ago quarter, Samsung’s market share was 20%, while Xiaomi’s was leading with 26%.

The volume of units Samsung shipped in this quarter was 32% higher than last year, Counterpoint said. Samsung lost the top position to Xiaomi in 2017.

As India recovered from the lockdown, Samsung adopted an aggressive online channel strategy and benefited from anti-China sentiments in the country. Its recent strategy of introducing affordable smartphone handsets had also paid off, the report said.

India and China had a military clash on June 15 near the Ladakh region, leading to the deaths of 20 Indian troops. In retaliation, India banned many Chinese-owned apps including TikTok and WeChat and tightened import restrictions from China.

This led to delayed shipments of components for Chinese handset makers in India and their supply chains took a hit. On the other hand, Samsung’s supply chain recovered much faster after the lockdown.

The anti-China sentiment drummed up by Indian social media users following the border clash also prompted buyers to look for alternatives.

Samsung also recently launched Galaxy M01 Core, its most affordable phone in India at a starting price of 5,499 rupees. The company has plans to launch more low-cost models to tap first-time smartphone users.

However Canalys, another research firm, said its findings contradict Counterpoint’s report. According to Canalys, Xiaomi continued to hold the top spot in India with a 26.1% market share in the September quarter, ahead of Samsung’s 20.4%.

Advantage Apple

Meanwhile, iPhone maker Apple has reported record sales during the July-September quarter, chief executive Tim Cook said. “Geographically, we set September quarter records in the Americas, Europe and the rest of Asia Pacific. We also set a September quarter record in India, thanks in part to a very strong reception to this quarter’s launch of our online store in the country,” Cook said during an earnings call.

According to Counterpoint, Apple has upstaged OnePlus from the top spot in the premium segment. “Apple led the premium segment (above 30,000 rupees) surpassing OnePlus even before its flagship launch, driven by strong demand for its iPhone SE (2020) and the iPhone 11,” it noted.

Industry watchers say that Apple’s move to scale up local manufacturing had made its handsets more competitive in the price-sensitive Indian market. From May this year, it started making the iPhone 11 in India, and prices have fallen to 49,990 rupees, from 68,500 rupees.