The Evolving Indian Mobile Phone Buyer

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[quote_left]For one, people weren’t asking for a Nokia phone. It’s true that Indians have worshiped Nokia like the Goddess of mobile phones for a long time.[/quote_left]The last time I walked into a local mobile phone store here, I could notice a significant change in the way people bought their phones. Now India is a huge country. A billion people just cannot fit into a single category of cell phone buyers. Everyone has their own needs and budget is one of the most important reasons for making a final choice here. Don’t worry I’m not going to write a thesis on the types of mobile phone buyers in India here. I’m only going to explain the segment I particularly found interesting.

So what exactly did I notice in the mobile store? For one, people weren’t asking for a Nokia phone (fan boys to please excuse). It’s true that Indians have worshiped Nokia like the Goddess of mobile phones for a long time. That trend has significantly changed, thanks to the growing number of mobile phone manufacturers who have jumped into the already exploding mobile market in India. The buyers now have a whole lot of options.

The typical Indian mentality of going with a trusted brand or a highly recommended brand has somewhat changed. Earlier everyone in a family owned a Nokia phone. Even if you bought a Panasonic, you would be given the death stare by each member of the family. How dare you buy from another manufacturer? Don’t you know, Nokia phones won’t break even if you throw them on the floor?

Going further, a majority of Indians have opened up to the smartphone market. I should mention here that a majority of Indians especially the rural segment and those who cannot afford expensive phones, own a feature-phone. We’ve come to a stage where we have more mobile phones than toilets.

A few trends I have noticed while talking and spending time at mobile stores in India:
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  • People are more open to trying out a new manufacturer if it fits the bill
  • More the features, more chances of buying a phone (Remember how we were sold on 3G phones even when we didn’t have the technology with mobile phone operators?).
  • Smartphones are in. They’re cool and they kick arse. A majority of people at mobile stores cannot make out difference between an Android phone or a Windows Phone 7 device. Not unless they see it on the packaging or it’s told to them.
  • People are buying iPhones too. They’re just a little too expensive to find a majority here.
  • Cheaper phones are still selling well. They are also getting much better with more and more features packed into them. Still highly unreliable but people don’t mind that with the low price tag.
  • A strong segment, I like to call smartphone-segment, is brewing up. The buyers here are keen on great smartphones and keep on changing their phones at regular intervals to make sure they have the latest mobile phone technology in their hands.

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How does the future look like?

Two words to put it – pretty solid. In the next five years the number of smartphone owners would really increase. Like Godzilla-times the number of smartphones that are sold right now. More people will move on from feature-phones to smartphones as they get more affordable(Now I’m starting to sound like a pundit, I’m not). With Android, Windows Phone 7 and iOS’s strong presence in the market in the present as well as the near future, smartphone usage is all set to explode. Who knows we might have more smartphones than Mc Donald’s in the next 5 years.

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362 Comments

  1. What you wrote about Nokia is a sentiment that many people still share, though that is changing because they seem to be nowhere in the race now. It’s also interesting (and nice) to see that the Indian buyer *does* evolve and accepts change. 

    Reply
    • Most of the evolution-friendly segment is the youth. 25-35 age group ideally, these are people like you and me who go after the wow-phones.
      Nokia is still back in the game with it’s Lumia phones. Just wait till the budget models hit the Indian market. They’re going to take back some of their market share again.

      Reply
  2. You forgot the big players in Indian Cell Phone Market.. The Chinese Phone.. Micromax, Lava Mobiles….

    Whole rural India is filled with Chinese Phones…  

    Indian Foreign Ministry might be fearful that Chinese military coming to there border but they forgot Chinese phones have already made it big in India’s Heartland…   

    Reply
    • It’s surprising but the so called Chinese phones have totally disappeared from the market. All thanks to cheap Micromax and Lava Mobile phones, these branded phones have provided the rural and poor segments with unlimited options. Also, with the government banning non-IMEI phones, it made it obvious for everyone to go for branded phones. Now almost everyone I see around here owns a branded Micromax, Nokia or Lava etc.

      Reply

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