The Rs 1,20,000 crore (US$ 20 billion) mobile handsets industry in India has witnessed some fierce battles for market share and visibility in the past five years; the latest in the list of high profile head-to-heads is that between two home-grown vendors – Micromax and Intex. While, Micromax has been comfortably ensconced at the number two position in the mobile handset market for the past two years, latest sales data from the US-based market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) threatens the status quo. It shows Delhi-headquartered Intex challenging the original challenger, Micromax, in terms of overall handset sales in the country.
According to IDC, Intex has 11.85 per cent share of the market. This puts it marginally ahead of Micromax (11.66 per cent) for the July-September 2015 quarter. But Micromax, which still features among the top 10 handset brands globally, contests this and cites shipment data to prove that it is the undisputed number two in the industry. Vineet Taneja, CEO Micromax said, “According to Info Drive, during the September quarter, Micromax imported 9.7 million handsets, which accounts for 14 per cent of the market, including 5.6 million smartphones. And since on a quarterly level import data is a clear reflection of sales, I don’t see a chance for any other company overtaking us currently. Micromax is a clear number two in smartphones, holding an 18 per cent share, and the third player has sales less than half of ours.”
Research agencies such as Bengaluru based Cyber Media Research (CMR) and Info Drive back Micromax’s stand. According to CMR, Micromax is second after Korean giant Samsung (the market leader). It has 12.2 per cent share of the market compared to 11.8 percent for Intex which takes the third spot. IDC has the same numbers for Intex’s market share but puts Micromax a shade behind.
Is it then just a case of lies, damned lies and statistics? Micromax’s Taneja points out, there may be marginal differences in the share percentages recorded by the agencies due to differences in data compilation methods. “The best way to judge and calculate the position is to consider the shipment data. And since at the quarterly level, total shipment (numbers) nearly equals the ground level sales, that is the best measure”, he said. The implication therefore is that one should look at units shipped in, instead of units sold. “Info Drive data shows that we shipped in some 9.7 million handsets during the third quarter (July-September, 2015) compared to 8.3 million by the other player”, he says without naming the contender to his throne.
Intex, however, in a press note to all media houses said, “We have sold a whopping 87,55,697 mobile phones, a 42.5 per cent growth vis-a-vis the last quarter. Intex Technologies has shown an incredible growth.” There is little doubt that Intex is a brand on the rise. Even if one looks at the smartphones market, IDC reported, “Intex has secured the third position in Q3 2015 with 9.4 per cent growth.”
Faisal Kawoosa, analyst with CMR says, “Companies like Intex, Lava and Zen Mobiles continued their focus on penetrating deep into the heartland, serving the mass markets that still exist in much of rural India. This helped them serve both ends of the market extremely well.”
However, CMR does not see the challengers taking the lead as yet. Karn Chauhan, analyst with CMR’s telecom practice said, “This is for the second consecutive quarter that Samsung, Micromax and Intex have maintained their rankings in the overall India mobile handsets market as well as the smartphones segment. Vendor market shares have also remained stable and have not witnessed major shifts.”
There is little doubt however that Micromax is facing the heat from new entrants. They say that the edge and agility that Micromax once had, seems to be fading. Faisal Kawoosa said, “Micromax, once known for its innovation and timing has been a bit lagging in terms of its responsiveness to market changes.” He believes that Micromax has slipped up a few times, especially over its judgement about the 4G smartphones market. “Its growth rate in the unit shipments is also inconsistent to the market trend,” Kawoosa says. Brands like Intex are hoping to exploit the chink in its armour. To paraphrase an old Chinese curse, the handset market is headed for interesting times in the year ahead.