Lenovo's astonishing smartphone success in India

The Moto lineup and the success of its budget 4G smartphones have helped Lenovo ascend rapidly to become the third most popular smartphone seller in India behind Micromax and Samsung

It may not yet be up there with Samsung, the dominating smartphone seller in India holding steady with 24 percent market share after losing ground over the years; or with local giant Micromax, which roughly commands 16 to 17 percent of the market share. But if it continues at anything close to the scorching pace it has exhibited in the last year and a half, both of these biggies better watch out for Lenovo, arguably the hottest brand in the Indian market today.

Not so long ago, this Chinese company was known more for its ability to flog PCs than anything else. It was also tentatively dipping its toes in the Indian market with launches of phones that didn't really cause any major waves. Hence, its market share was negligible. According to IDC, the company did not figure in the top five brands even as late as the quarter ending December 2014.

Recent figures disclose a whole new picture, with Lenovo leapfrogging to become the number four smartphone maker by volume at 9.5 percent in India, and number three by value at 11 percent, according to research outfit IDC.

The reason for this spectacular jump? Possibly the best move Lenovo has made in years, which is to have bought Motorola from Google, thus igniting its smartphone strategy in what is now the hottest market for these devices in the world. The Moto line, which includes first and second generations of the E, the G, and the X models, has sold millions of its units to Indians, popular for their attractive specifications at modest prices, dependability, and ruggedness, making them the easy value-for-money pick in the country. Apparently, in just 10 months in 2014, the company sold 3 million Moto devices.

Another pivotal reason for continued momentum this year is its success with online sales of its entry level, affordable 4G smartphones. Sales of its A6000 ($116) and A7000 ($130) devices have been on fire, helping it grab a 30 percent share of the 4G smartphone market in the country, according to Counterpoint Research. Considering that almost 50 percent of all smartphones shipped in India were under $100 in the last quarter compared with only one-fifth of them in China in the same period, aggressively pushing these phones has been a very smart strategy

So impressive has its performance been in India to date that it has become the only Chinese major in the top five vendor list in India, and easily besting its more attention-grabbing compatriot, Xiaomi.

So it is only expected that Lenovo is going to now go gangbusters to extend its dominance and has clearly expressed its intention to wrench, for starters, the second position in the smartphone rankings in India from Micromax and mount steady incursions into Samsung.

It has already tied up with Singapore-based Flextronics to assemble its phones in the latter's 40,000 square feet Chennai facility and is targeting a doubling of production to 10 million units annually in India from next year. It has also combined the sales teams for Motorola and Lenovo in the country and is planning on launching products here first before launching them globally

The Chinese company also intends transplanting its popular phone customisation programme Moto Maker after launching it in the US and Brazil. This ranges from allowing its fans to tinker with the back panels of their phones and even perhaps tweak things like RAM or screen size in the future.

With product innovation that has also successfully kept an eye on affordability durability, Lenovo will continue to attract the value conscious Indian consumer while ratcheting up the pressure on Micromax and Samsung in what is a fiercely contested market.