Samsung borrows from Chinese playbook for India market

Vastavam web: Sometimes keeping ahead of the game means learning some tricks from rivals – a strategy Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) hasn’t been too proud to adopt in India where Xiaomi Corp (1810.HK) and other Chinese brands have made hefty inroads.Pages pulled from their playbooks include becoming savvier with online marketing to millennials as Samsung seeks to reinvent itself as a ‘younger brand’, as well as providing sales staff for smaller stores and even finding a new love for cricket with a sponsorship deal.

“Samsung was living in a sort of denial of the threat that Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo posed but now they’ve come out of the ostrich hole,” said Rushabh Doshi, research manager at industry tracker Canalys. “Now they are fighting back, definitely.”To be sure, Samsung has long dominated the premium end of the smartphone market in India and features like “chat over video”, designed at its Indian R&D center, underscore its tech prowess. It has also built up a wide retail network in the country.Just five years ago, it had 20 percent of the Chinese market only to see that fall to less than 1 percent this year, outgunned by Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo, particularly on pricing.

It’s also the world’s fastest-growing major mobile phone market, expanding about 20 percent last quarter from a year earlier. For Samsung, India is its biggest market outside the United States and one where it has invested heavily, opening the world’s biggest smartphone factory outside New Delhi last month.Although Samsung regained the title last quarter, it was only by a hair’s breadth – 29 percent market share to Xiaomi’s 28 percent, according to research firm Counterpoint. Samsung started selling three new phones in the quarter while Xiaomi had one product release.