Author(s): Peter Bryer
Even for those following hardware markets closely, it's not easy to keep up. Asian original design manufacturers (ODMs) have enabled a painting-by-numbers approach to creating devices with attractive specifications. Product development isn't the art it once was, and this is enabling entrepreneurs with brand visions and holistic strategies.
Last week, CCS Insight wrote about Chinese content and hardware provider LeTV (see Daily Insight: Bold Expansion Plans from LeTV). It's a name that few outside China have heard of, yet the company is now establishing US offices to launch its brand internationally. A large home market could support this type of expansion, helping Chinese brands to chip away smartphone share from incumbents.
A growing number of local Indian companies are building the reputation of hardware that bares their brands. The devices are almost exclusively sourced from Chinese ODMs. Smartphones are stamped with a logo and shipped in increasing volumes — the devices are built abroad, but the brand building is local.
Several Indian companies including Karbonn and Micromax have become well known in the industry, but Intex is claiming that it's India's number-one smartphone brand. It's tempting to write off Intex's assertion as an embellishment based on some dubious data. Our checks indicate that the company has become one of India's top smartphone brands, but likely to be the number-two domestic brand behind Micromax in recent quarters and number-three overall behind Samsung and Micromax. Intex smartphones retail for as little as $43, driving volumes and brand awareness.
Indian brands like Intex, Karbonn, Lava and Micromax appear to be playing a game of market-share leapfrog, and could be doing so at cost to international brands. The combined share of Indian smartphone players is approaching 50% of the market. Domestic names have come a long way.