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Strong recovery for India’s smartphone market in 2021 with a record 162 million shipments

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Xiaomi MI, Realme and Samsung Logos are seen on a billioard of a Electronics shop in Sopore, District Baramulla, Jammu and Kashmir, India on 26 October 2020.
Nasir Kachroo | NurPhoto | Getty Images

India’s smartphone market made a strong recovery in 2021 and grew 12% from the previous year, according to research firm Canalys.

Smartphone makers shipped a record 162 million devices in last year, despite a difficult start to the year as the country battled a second wave of Covid-19 and navigated supply chain disruptions, according to firm.

“Following a strong comeback in Q3, smartphone vendors shipped 44.5 million devices in Q4 for 2% growth, despite a challenging supply chain,” the research firm said in a report on Monday.

Chinese smartphone makers dominated the top five spots in 2021, with Xiaomi leading the way. South Korean phonemaker Samsung took second place, while Chinese manufacturer vivo took third position. Shenzhen-based Realme came a close fourth, but for the first time in India, managed to clinch third place in the fourth quarter.

The growth comes despite India suffering a catastrophic second wave of Covid-19 last year, which saw lockdowns and supply chain disruptions across the country, affecting both smartphone demand and supply.

Vendors had to adapt to the volatile environment by diversifying their supply chains and broadening their product mix, said Canalys analyst Sanyam Chaurasia.

“At the same time, thanks to the vaccination rollout, market reopening and pent-up demand, smartphone shipments reached all-time highs for the full-year,” he added.

Realme’s tremendous growth

While Xiaomi and Samsung retained their top spots for 2021, Shenzhen-based Realme saw the biggest full year and quarterly growth.

Realme, which is set to enter the premium smartphone market, saw shipments grow by 25% for the full year to 24.2 million units.

The Chinese company achieved an annual growth of 49% in the fourth quarter while the other four brands suffered a negative growth.

“Realme’s record shipment total was made possible by innovations in planning and stock management which led to good supply of mass-market smartphones such as Narzo 50A and C11,” said Chaurasia.

Vivo remained at third place for 2021, but Realme chased closely behind with a market share of 15% last year, only 1% less than Vivo. OPPO remained in the fifth place with a market share of 12%.

Upcoming trends

Growth is expected to continue this year, said Chaurasia, driven by replacement demand and new customers migrating to smartphones.

With low-end players gaining momentum in the fourth quarter of last year, new players may shake up the competition for market share, Canalys said.

“JioPhone Next, which aims to upgrade feature-phone users via disruptive financing options, made a strong start with several million units sold,” said Chaurasia. And on Amazon and Flipkart, Infinix and Tecno efficiently leveraged brand promotional campaigns. They also increased brand recognition on social media platforms.”

Together, the rest of the brands saw an annual growth of 111%, and a year-on-year growth of 126% in the fourth quarter alone.

The research firm also expects India to undergo a huge digital transformation this year.

“2022 will bring 5G spectrum auctions with new radio frequency ranges, and 5G will become significantly more accessible in terms of coverage and price,” said Chaurasia.

“Smartphones capable of 5G will fall further in price amid fierce vendor rivalry, but shipments will be stifled in H1 2022 before the component shortage eases.”

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