January 13, 2019 / 6:38 PM / 4 months ago

Samsung to launch India-first smartphones to counter Chinese rivals

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Samsung (005930.KS) plans to launch a budget smartphone series in India ahead of a global release, aiming to regain ground ceded to Chinese rivals such as Xiaomi (1810.HK) in the world’s second-biggest mobile phone market.

FILE PHOTO - A man walks past a newly opened Samsung store in Bengaluru, India, September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Abhishek N. Chinnappa

The South Korean company’s Indian market share by shipments has lagged Xiaomi’s in two of the three 2018 quarters for which data is available, according to technology researcher Counterpoint.

The three new M-series phones, which Samsung plans to sell only through its website and Amazon.com’s (AMZN.O) Indian operation, will help the company to double online sales, the head of Samsung’s Indian mobile business told Reuters.

“The M series has been built around and incepted around Indian millennial consumers,” Asim Warsi said, adding that the phones will be rolled out globally after the Indian launch at the end of January.

He declined to give specifics but said that online sales account for a double-digit percentage of the company’s overall mobile phone revenue.

Samsung’s mobile phone sales in India touched 373.5 billion rupees ($5.3 billion) in the 12 months to end-March 2018, according to regulatory filings sourced by paper.vc, a business intelligence platform.

The India-made phones, priced from less than 10,000 rupees ($141.80) up to 20,000 rupees, will carry chunkier batteries and features such as quick charging, Warsi said.

Samsung has been sharpening its focus on India, home to more than a billion wireless subscribers and where roughly 350 million users still do not use smartphones.

Last year it opened what it said was the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Indian capital New Delhi as well as its biggest mobile phone store globally in Bengaluru.

“A lot of our insights, R&D and developments for consumers in India ... they have great connect with many other consumers in many other parts of the world,” Warsi said.

Samsung’s Indian business sells its phones through 250,000 retail outlets and more than 2,000 exclusive stores, with support offered by 2,000 service centers.

($1 = 70.5200 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by David Goodman

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