February 15, 2013 7:23 pm

Samsung to market India phone in China

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Samsung Electronics is to market a phone designed in India for sale in China and other leading emerging nations in a sign of the growing interplay between the two countries with the most mobile users.

India pioneered a number of basic innovations in the global handset industry, from an early Nokia device offering a torch and extra-long battery life for rural users without electricity, to phones with louder call volumes to counteract the nation’s clamorous streets.

But the latest move by Samsung, the world’s largest electronics group by sales, is the first time a more upscale “made in India” phone has been entirely designed domestically with exports to other big emerging nations in mind.

The move underlines how India’s mobile phone market, which is the world’s second-largest by users and worth up to $10bn in annual sales, is becoming an increasingly important focus in the battle between leading handset makers such as Samsung and Motorola.

The Samsung Rex is a mid-range mobile of the type still used by most customers in emerging markets, although it includes many of the features associated with more advanced iPhone-style smartphones, which only account for about 10 per cent of Indian sales.

B.D. Park, chief executive of southwest Asia for Samsung, said: “The Rex series has been developed in India and will be introduced across a number of the world’s fastest growing markets from India.”

Samsung confirmed that the group planned to export the Rex from its factories in India to a number of foreign nations, although it would make the product from facilities outside India as well.

Jayanth Kolla, an analyst at Convergence Catalyst, a Bangalore-based telecoms consultancy, said: “A device that has been entirely designed from scratch in India and then sold on in other emerging countries like China? I don’t know of any one [that] has done this in this way.

“It shows that India is now going to drive some of the most important new features in the future of the global smart and [mid-range] feature phone segments.”

Samsung recently overtook Nokia to become India’s number one mobile manufacturer by revenues, although both groups face competition from numerous smaller domestic outfits, most of which use rebranded handsets imported from China.

India has nonetheless become an increasingly important centre for the export of phones for the largest global players, including Nokia’s facility in the southern city of Chennai, which is the Nordic company’s largest and exports about 60 per cent of its production each year.

However, some analysts questioned whether Samsung’s mid-range export would win converts in China’s more sophisticated and competitive market, where around a third of users already use more upmarket smartphones.

“In China there is more competition from hundreds of local players and the market is really fragmented,” said Anshul Gupta, a consumer technology analyst at research group Gartner.

“They [Samsung] are more likely to find that a phone like this will do well in Latin America, or Indonesia or the Philippines, where the market is much more like India, and Indian innovations are just what local customers want.”

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