The Indian Smartphone Market – Already Big but with Plenty of Room for Growth

Oct 10, 2018
By: Marissa Camilli

App developers would be unwise to underestimate the opportunity a country like India represents for their business. With more than a billion consumers, India is the third fastest growing economy in the world today, showing little sign of abatement.

While playing “the numbers game” isn’t always a clear path to business success, India’s figures are pretty hard to ignore.

  • A Rapidly Growing Middle Class: A study conducted by Mumbai University suggests that upwards of 50 percent of the Indian population is now defined as middle class. While the university’s definition of middle class (people spending anywhere between $2 and $10 per capita per day) isn’t quite parallel with the definition in western economies, it is clear that a growing number of people in India have the aspirations to improve their financial and social positions through education and employment. While other, perhaps more realistic, reports suggest that the middle classes now account for between 10 and 30 percent of the Indian population, with a total population of 1.2 billion people that’s a huge number with access to some level of disposable income (and this is constantly on the rise).
  • Mobile Penetration: There are nearly 800 million mobile phone users in India. More than half of these users still rely on feature phones (indeed, the market for feature phones is still growing in India). This is particularly true in rural areas where issues relating to connectivity and battery life make smartphones a less attractive option. However, the good news for smartphone manufacturers (OEMs) and app developers is that as India’s newfound wealth filters out of urban areas into the country’s rural economies and infrastructure improves, there is a tremendous opportunity, with the right product at the right price, to tap into a market (with middle-class aspirations) keen to upgrade to smartphone technology.
  • Smartphone Growth: The Indian smartphone market saw more than 30 million shipments in Q1, 2018, showing a growth of 11 percent. Putting this figure into the broader global perspective – where smartphone sales saw a decline of 11 percent over the same period – perhaps best demonstrates the potential in the Indian market. It’s also interesting to note that over this same period of time the Indian market saw the delivery of more than two million more devices than all of Western Europe. According to industry forecasts, the number of smartphone users in India is expected to grow by 15.6 percent, to reach 337 million, in 2018 — the highest estimated growth rate posted by any country.
  • Something to Celebrate: With Hindus making up nearly 80 percent of the Indian population, Diwali (the festival of lights) is one of the world’s largest religious holidays. As such, it is also one of the most popular gifting seasons in India. In 2017, more than 40 million devices were sold in India in the run-up to Diwali, with retailers offering huge discounts on devices in “Black Friday”-style sales. If Diwali isn’t on your holiday marketing strategy calendar, it’s almost certainly time you added it.
  • English-language Skills: India represents the second biggest nation of English-speakers in the world (the United States is number one). More than 12 percent of the population (approx. 125 million) speak English as a first, second or third language. Just to put some additional perspective on this number, India has more than twice the number of English-speakers than the United Kingdom. With the majority of English-speakers in India falling into a young, educated, professional, and middle class demographic – it’s clear to see why many app developers would want to target them. The size of India’s English-language speaking population may also prove very attractive to app developers who are keen to roll out products or services globally, but have concerns about translation/localization of their apps.

Further Reading: Smartphone Sales Slump – Has the Bubble Burst?

An Open Market

It’s not just the sheer scale of the Indian market that sets it apart from, perhaps, more mature western markets. The Indian smartphone market is much more fragmented than those in western economies where the mobile networks typically control the bulk of sales.

The Indian market is led by OEMs, independent retailers, and a burgeoning second-hand market. Very few devices are acquired on contract and therefore competition in pay-as-you-go SIM-only deals is buoyant. In a market very much steered by price, networks do not typically enjoy the same levels of customer loyalty as they would in Europe or the United States.

Further Reading: The Rising Cost of Smartphones Creates a Burgeoning Second-Hand Market

New Partners

As the world’s #1 platform connecting networks and OEMs with mobile advertisers, Digital Turbine is already well-versed in the Indian smartphone market.

This position has recently been bolstered by the announcement that the company will be working with Intex Technologies (a leading Indian OEM and smartphone brand) which will use the company’s Mobile Delivery Platform on select devices to improve app discovery and engagement for its end users.

Further Reading:  Intex Launches New Smartphones with Digital Turbine (Press Release)

Discussing the partnership and highlighting the opportunities available to app developers in the Indian market, Bill Stone, CEO of Digital Turbine, said: “The market in India will continue to rapidly expand as an increased number of feature-rich, affordable smartphones are introduced to the market.

“We are excited to partner with Intex to improve app delivery and discovery for end customers. Our Mobile Delivery Platform transforms how customers find and engage with top apps. By providing targeted app recommendations and frictionless app installs, a more engaging and relevant user experience is created.”

Stone’s enthusiasm for the Indian market is matched by that of Nitin Goel, Intex’s Head of Digital Services, who said: “The frequency of mobile usage in India is growing rapidly with the increasing sales of mobile handsets. As a result, customers are spending more time than ever on their devices; downloading more apps, listening to music, playing games and shopping at higher rates than ever.

“We continuously aim to provide our customers an exceptional value and also cater to delivering a feature-rich experience with relevant app recommendations which is an important component in building user interface. Digital Turbine’s Mobile Delivery Platform enables us to efficiently deliver relevant app recommendations, saving our company’s time and resources.”

Frictionless App Installs

Pre-loading apps on devices such as Intex’s range of smartphones, so they are available from the moment of unboxing and bypass the need to visit the Google Play Store or an independent download site, is the most effective way to drive app discoverability and engagement. This is particularly true in a market where access to Wi-Fi or “all-you-can-eat” data plans may be limited.

To learn more about how pre-loading can help you target a new and potentially lucrative Indian market, talk to one of our experts today.

Marissa Camilli
By Marissa Camilli
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