Over the last decade the South Korean multinational conglomerate Samsung has cemented for itself a leadership position in the Indian consumer electronics market. In an exclusive interaction with The Dollar Business, Asim Warsi, Global Vice President, Samsung Electronics talks about the past, present and future of this tech giant in India and the ways in which it wants to leverage innovation to stay ahead of the curve in the smartphone space.
Interview by Ahmad Shariq Khan | March 2018 Issue | The Dollar Business
TDB: How important is the Indian market for Samsung?
Asim Warsi (AW): India is a critical market for Samsung. It is a diverse country with a population that has many requirements from the technology it uses, and we at Samsung are committed to serving these needs. We are constantly working towards innovating customer-centric products that cater to user’s needs and desires. With two manufacturing units and five R&D centres, India is the regional headquarter for Samsung’s South West Asia operations.
TDB: Was CY2017 a good year for Samsung India?
AW: CY2017 was a fantastic year for us as we witnessed steady growth across all segments. According to market research firm GfK, between January and November 2017 Samsung was the top brand in India with 42% value market share in the overall smartphone segment and a 56% value market share in the premium segment. Samsung’s market leadership in the premium segment is on account of the largely popular Galaxy S8, S8+ and the recently launched Galaxy Note 8. While CY2017 was a record year for Samsung India, we are confident that CY2018 will be even better. The growing demand for data and better speed is making 4G a reality for Indian consumers. The proliferation of 4G LTE will help fuel the explosion in demand for 4G devices as they becomes more readily available. Samsung is working closely with its Indian partners to bring the real 4G experience to all Indian users. We hope to continue to be the market leader in smartphones in India by innovating to meet the changing requirements of India’s vibrant population. Our company is a firm believer in the maxim – business is more about people than profits.
TDB: How does Samsung cater to the large rural population in India?
AW: We are a full-range player and our feature phone offerings start at Rs.1,200. We have six feature phone models, which are all multimedia phones. These are sold through the widest network and have the backing of a great rural distribution network. One of the things that is overlooked about our company is that we are No.1 in both feature phones as well as smartphones. Today, Samsung smartphone experiences start at as low as around Rs.4,800. Consumers in India are not looking at the cheapest smartphone but for the best-value smartphone, and that is what we try to provide. The Indian middle class are difficult customers to please, but we try our best.
TDB: What factors are driving your smartphone sales in India?
AW: The foremost reason is new technology. We always strive to bring the latest technology to our customers. Second is innovation. All our smartphones come with ‘Made for India’ innovations, applications and utilities made specifically for the Indian populace. Today, consumers want to do more with their devices, and hence we have created an ecosystem surrounding our devices that offers security features like Samsung Knox and Iris Scan, Samsung Pay – a digital payment platform – and features like our unique Social Camera. We continuously innovate for our consumers, and this is what drives our sales.
TDB: What is Samsung doing to stay ahead of competition?
AW: We greatly value our leadership position in India’s smartphone market. Our ‘Make for India’ initiative is exclusively aimed at living up to the expectations of our Indian customers. We back our products and services with an unmatchable service network of over 3,000 service points and 535 service vans. We share a deep bond with our dealers and retailers, and we carefully nurture our relationship with them. They are the real reason of our success in the country.
Our ears are firmly to the ground and we strive to be in tune with the likes and dislikes of our customers so that we can provide them with the best smartphone experience. The consumer today is spoilt for choice, and there needs to be a perfect blend of performance and style to woo them. The demand for slimmer, faster and smarter devices is on the rise and this is a huge opportunity for us and we have always managed to offer technologically advanced devices, which also score in terms of looks. With such a strong product line up, we hope to make the most of this opportunity. We have some really exciting products in the pipeline.
Indians are discerning customers. They want the most bang for their buck and the smartphone market has been one of the most competitive segments of the industry. Serving a market like this is a challenging and exciting experience. What makes us stand out from the others is our focus on what consumers want. Every third smartphone sold in July 2017 in India was a Galaxy J. We hope to keep making news like that even in the future. This high rate of adoption of our devices is on account of the various ‘Made for India’ innovations we have brought in.
TDB: You talked about the Samsung ecosystem. How will it work in the Indian context?
AW: Currently in India, we are witnessing a rapid adoption of 4G devices along with the development of rich content, creation of a cashless ecosystem and major advancements in service offerings. While the industry is preparing itself for the impending surge, the government is also driving citizens towards digital transactions with its Digital India mission. The demonetisation movement saw a lot of people adopt cashless methods of payment. With the cashless economy taking shape, mobile phones will become an essential component in driving the transition. Smartphones will become complete mobile wallets and security will play a critical role as we transition into a cashless society. This is what Samsung is working on now. We hope to make our digital payment platform – Samsung Pay – the most user-friendly and secure platform available in the market. We are confident that the Indian customers will be quick to adopt our platform once they are made aware of its convenience. Sales will continue to grow in CY2018 as we make more and more improvements to our devices and the services they offer.
TDB: How big is Samsung’s retail and service network in India ?
AW: Samsung has maintained a strong presence across all major towns and cities. We will continue to grow our extensive dealer network comprising Samsung Plaza, Samsung Smart Cafés, large retail formats and multi-brand outlets. Channel partners are key stakeholders in our growth strategy. We have a large base of strong partners across various businesses. In fact, in October 2016, Samsung launched 535 service vans to ensure timely service to customers in the remotest corners of India. With new additions our service network now has over 3,000 service points, up from the earlier 2,000 points. With this, Samsung’s reach will extend to customers in over 6,000 talukas across the country, making our network the largest in the Indian industry.
TDB: When did you recognise the potential of the Indian market?
AW: We recognised India’s potential far before anyone else and set up our first plant in Noida almost two decades ago. Much before market research companies recognised India as the second largest smartphone market, we announced an investment of nearly Rs.5,000 crore to be used to double the capacity of our mobile phone plant in Noida.
We continue to evolve our smartphone portfolio to provide customers from all sections of society with devices that enhance their lives and open up new experiences to them. Our constant endeavour is to develop products in line with the need of the consumers. Our entire product range is designed keeping users at the core of innovation.
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