The beginning of the new millennium (around 2005 to be more precise) saw a new force appear in the mobile phone bazaars of India. A new wave of smaller, low cost phones made by a motley crowd of local manufacturers was beginning to enthrall customers.
The giants of India, Nokia were suddenly being attacked by names that no one had heard of, Micromax, Spice and Karbonn. The list seemed long and the devices seemed promising. One particular aspect of the lot seemed the most compelling reason why people were suddenly attracted to them- The Dual Sim functionality.
The trend caught fire quickly and more local manufacturers churned out Dual Sim phones at all price ranges. Nokia and Samsung caught on late to the game but as latest evidence would have it, they have beat out competition in the market.
This post looks at the Dual Sim battle between the giants and the rabble of local players.
Indians and the Dual Sim obsession
The usage of dual or multiple SIM cards among mobile phone users has been rising sharply in India and other developing countries. According to a Nielson report which was published recently, there are 71 million unique subscribers in India who use multiple SIM cards accounting for around 61% of the whole mobile phone sales in the country.
The report also states that most of these multiple SIM card users are youths who are college students, newly employed or working professionals. They use multiple SIM cards to avail better offers through different carriers which give them the cost advantage.
In the same Nielson’s report of multiple SIM usage, 4 out of every 5 multiple SIM card users own a single handset and mostly, they switch SIM cards manually. It was stated that over 7 out of 10 of those multi-SIM card users polled into the survey intend to acquire a dual-SIM mobile phone soon.
People with shallow pockets wanted their phones to have all the necessary features even though they were low on quality. Unknown Chinese brands came into picture and they offered cheap multiple SIM cards, touchscreen, multimedia playback, camera and really loud speakers to attract those consumers.
But the problem with the Chinese brands was that there was no after sales support at all and they even got into some legal issues over the absence of IMEI numbers which should be present in every mobile phone.
Enter- Micromax, GFive and Lava et al… The local brands then came up with similar things but they also offered better quality without legal issues and also offered after sales support. The big brands Nokia Samsung, LG and even Sony Ericsson ignored the renaissance of sorts in the low cost segment mainly due to low profitability.
While the giants slept however, the local players slowly captured market space. But when people started preferring multi SIM mobile phones while buying lower priced handsets, big brands like these started realizing the value of this market. By then, almost whole low end and dual SIM mobile phone market was acquired by local players such as Micromax, Karbonn, G’Five and Spice.
Micromax in particular would go onto become one of the leading mobile makers of the market with over 10% market share in 2011.
Nokia & Samsung Regained the Sales in Dual SIM Mobile Phone Market
To revive their slowly sinking ship, Nokia started releasing Dual SIM phones two and half years after the local players. They held their weight behind the new Asha series as well as other entry level dual SIM phones for regaining the lost ground in the low end market.
C1-00 and C2 were the first dual SIM phones from Nokia which did not sell much because a user could only switch from one SIM to another manually as they were not ‘dual-standby’. Nokia then went on to release probably the biggest hit among the dual SIM phones with X1-01. The phone sold like hot cakes as people loved the fact that it is from their favourite reliable brand and had all the necessary features at rock bottom price of INR 1,799. All the new dual SIM phones from Nokia and Samsung are now dual-standby so that you can receive calls on both the SIM cards without switching them manually.
Fast forward to 2012, Nokia now leads the multi SIM mobile phone market with 30% share in multi SIM mobile phone market. When Nokia’s sales were at troublingly low level in Q3 last year, they were able to revive sales up to some extent due to sales of their dual SIM mobile phones as per this Gartner report.
Samsung trails at 2nd position with 16% of this market share. Samsung got back into the dual SIM market with their Duos line of phones across all their other segments, be it Champ Duos for feature phone users, Guru. After the advent of Android smartphones, people were drawn towards them and wanted to use them but not without dual SIM facility.
Samsung then introduced their lower mid-level Dual SIM Galaxy smartphones with Android. Samsung Galaxy Y Duos and Galaxy Y Pro Duos were one of the most sold dual SIM Android smartphones due to presence of all necessary features at reasonable prices. Samsung have recently targeted their TV advertisements towards college going or newly employed youths for marketing of their dual SIM smartphones.
The Future of Dual Sim
The trend of selling multi SIM mobile phones which was started by firms such as Micromax and Karbonn are not in the top place which has been eaten away by manufacturers such as Nokia and Samsung who now collectively own nearly half of the market share.
Other brands like Lava, Spice, Karbonn and G’Five who started the trend of dual SIM mobile phones are remained with just single figures of market share. Now even HTC and Sony have entered the dual SIM phone market with HTC Desire V priced at INR 20,399 and Sony Xperia Tipo Dual which is expected to be priced between INR 12,000 to INR 14,000 respectively.
Dual sim market is already burgeoning with over 85 models among 20+ brands. With the entry of dual sim smartphones into the market, it seems dual sim maybe becomes the minimum expected feature for most phones. Can Nokia defend its title as reigning mobile manufacturer in 2012 even as more players enter the lower budget segment of dual sim phones?
Can Sony and HTC beat Samsung’s dual sim Androids? We are heading for interesting times.
[About the Author: Ashwin Sreekumar heads Marketing at MySmartprice and is an MS graduate from State University of New York, University at Buffalo. He has avid interest in eCommerce, marketing , technology and smartphones.]