Moto G to battle Indian brands for mobile supremacy

Google's Moto G is taking the plunge soon in a hotly contested local market ruled primarily by Indian brands.

The much-awaited Moto G, launched by Google post its acquisition of Motorola, enters the shifting sands of the Indian phone market at an interesting time. Widely regarded as a quality, value-for-money product in the budget category of 5,000 rupees (Rs) to Rs 15,000 (approximately $80 to $240), the Moto G has a good chance of luring many thousands of value-cum-quality-conscious discerning Indian shoppers.

But this is not the product-starved India of Nehruvian socialism. Today, every phone maker under the sun (and many recently converted computer makers turned phone makers, such as Lenovo or Sony) is proclaiming double-digit market share as a near-term goal. Ironically, however, most of these foreign phone makers are mere upstarts for Indian phone companies such as Micromax, Karbonn, and Lava, which collectively dominate the majority of the market.

There's a recent, informative study on the Indian phone market by consumer site 91mobiles that sheds some light on the competitive landscape that awaits the Moto G:

  • Expect an all-out slugfest between the Moto G and the current supremo in the segment, the Micromax A116 Canvas HD. Out of a total of 68 brands in India, 48 were Indian brands (accounting for 70 percent of all phone launches) and 20 were international brands.

  • Indian brands are shifting towards middle-end and high-end phones from feature phones. In 2013, launches for devices priced in the Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 range (about $80 to $240) more than tripled compared to 2012, from 49 to 212. These phones comprised 38 percent of the total market for phones.

  • The next category, Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 (about $240 to $400), while not as blockbuster as the previous one in sheer numbers still introduced 17 new devices compared to just one in 2012. Meanwhile, the country saw a 10x increase in "phablets" (phones that are a cross between a phone and a tablet).

  • Samsung was present across all segments, but primarily focused on the lucrative Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 range (about $80 to $240). Nokia was present in all segments, from the low end (sub-$80) to the high end (above $400). Micromax, with close to 70 percent of its phones in the sub-$80 category (and 25 percent in the $80 to $240 range) is moving rapidly up the value chain.

  • Some existing and upcoming trends and stars: This is the era of the octacore processor, so look for more phones to have this under their hoods. The Moto G, if priced appropriately, could continue to churn the market, much like the Micromax A116 Canvas HD did. Lava continues to gain momentum with its smart XOLO phones. The Gionee Elife E6, according to the study, is getting rave reviews, and is destined to salvage the reputation of the Chinese, known till now for poor build quality. Its brethren Oppo and Xiaomi, which make cutting-edge and slick products to rival Apple's and Samsung's but at cheaper prices, could further this trend and upend the market as we know it.

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