Chinese apps lose ground even as phone makers become dominant in India

Made in china
(Image credit: Pixab=ay)

The year 2020 changed quite a few things. While the mother nature was healing with people confined to their houses, a virtual dimension to fighting wars was added. The Indian government not only retaliated on the Chinese border but by banning various apps of Chinese origin, it showed that a war can be fought without firing a single bullet.

Alongside the ban, Indian Prime minister Modi also announced a highly ambitious campaign called Aatma Nirbhar Bharat urging India Inc to become self-reliant and focus on products that are made in India and for Indians.

Back then there was some feeling that banning apps was an unwarranted move and was a knee-jerk reaction. However, an AppsFlyer report contradicts this. At the end of 2020, 40% applications in the top downloaded apps were Indian and the top Chinese applications recorded a decline. “In 2018, the share of Indian companies in top 200 installs was about 37 per cent,” highlighted an AppsFlyer India executive.

Various Indian apps like social media, video, news and even utility apps started gaining a foothold due to the void created by the absence of Chinese apps. The second biggest contributing factor, apart from the app ban, is the fact that most of these new apps focused on the vernacular content. This got users from Tier 2 and Tier cities hooked on to them.

Aside, thanks to people being locked in their respective homes, online content consumption also increased multifold. This was the same time when travel, food delivery apps and other shopping apps were not seeing any traction, but the viewership on OTT platforms not only increased but also led to an increase in digital payments.

Chinese phone makers strengthened their dominance 

In contrast to the mobile apps, the Chinese share in the India smartphone market did not have any adverse effect of the geopolitical situation. In fact, market research firms like Canalys and CounterPoint stated that despite the two-per cent dip in total smartphone shipments as a result of the nationwide lockdowns, nearly 145 million smartphones were shipped in the country.

And companies like Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Realme and OnePlus etc, that are of Chinese origin, strengthened their market dominance collectively. These companies have reportedly contributed to about 77 per cent of total shipment as compared to 72% from the year before.

If you leave aside Samsung and Apple, very few non-Chinese smartphone makers operating have any sort of say in the Indian smartphone market. While Apple, that focuses mainly on the premium segment, saw a bit of spike due to new releases and aggressive offers on the old iPhones, Taiwanese brand Asus only had a premium-priced gaming-focused ROG Phone 3. HMD-led Nokia on the other hand had an uneventful year. South Korean brand LG was nowhere in the vicinity.

Talking about Indian brands, we had Micromax waging the lone war. Right from the tongue in cheek marketing campaigns to the actual launch event, the company kept on taking sly digs on its Chinese counterparts. Sadly, it only had two phones in its kitty and those too were marred with intermittent supplies and quality issues.

Other Indian brands like Lava, Intex and others just filled the market with useless noise rather than making any impact. Hence due to the lack of quality option, consumers were bound to buy phones from Chinese brands even though it wasn’t their first choice and the nationalist sentiments remained as mere sentiments.

That said, if you look at the other side, these Chinese companies including Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo etc. assemble most of their products within the country. Xiaomi has time and again stated that apart from the components that aren’t manufactured in the country, rest all are locally sourced.

And while they remain of Chinese origin, they are a reason why a massive chunk of people earn their lively hood or their Indian vendors’ assembly lines or other supply chains. Phones made from these factories are not only sold in the country but are often shipped to overseas markets. Hence, writing them off totally because of their origin may not be 100% justified.

Made in India shouldn't be a marketing gimmick!

Following the ban and as an aftermath of the geopolitical scenario, various companies announced their plans to go big on local products. The app markets were flooded with desi TikTok clones, Zoom alternatives and we even had a PUBG replica coming in.

Aside we had hardware companies like Micromax and Lava making promises to offer a reliable alternative to Chinese companies. However, as expected most of these promises went unkept. Micromax had its struggles with quality issues, apps were hastily put together and launched without ensuring quality thus compromising on both user experience and data privacy.

FAUG, India’s answer to PUBG, is so poorly made that you don’t even need to play the game to clear the levels. The game lacks gameplay, story, logic that our reviewers said: “even calling it incomplete is a compliment.”

FAUG is a shining example that the Indian brands need to pull their socks up and put in a lot of effort in almost every aspect apart from shouting “Made in India” on top of their lungs and social media handles.

The users need honest efforts - case in point being Raji, another game that was also announced last year and does not force you to compromise on any level. It is on par with any other games one can buy. 

The moment the tag “Made in India” accompanies an assurance of quality, security and a no-compromise experience, Indian users can safely look beyond international options and can safely go Aatma Nirbhar.

Jitendra Soni

Jitendra has been working in the Internet Industry for the last 7 years now and has written about a wide range of topics including gadgets, smartphones, reviews, games, software, apps, deep tech, AI, and consumer electronics.