Sucheta Dalal :Chinese mobiles continue to flood Indian market with local partners
Sucheta Dalal

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Chinese mobiles continue to flood Indian market with local partners  

October 9, 2009


Mobile handset maker China Wireless Technologies has tied up with Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) to launch its dual-SIM smart phone in India and aims to earn around Rs8 billion over the next five years.

After the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number dispute and concerns raised by Indian security agencies, Chinese mobile makers seem to have revised their strategy. After flooding the Indian market with their cheap (both in quality and rates) handsets, Chinese mobile manufacturers are now mainly using domestic companies to promote their products.

In the past few months, many companies have entered the domestic mobile market with their "own" brand, but in fact all these handsets are procured from China at low rates and then sold using a different brand name. Although this method is not new, what is more important is the after-sales service that is not easily available for such equipment.

Hong-Kong stock exchange-listed China Wireless Technologies' Indian subsidiary Coolpad Communications has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with RCom's retail subsidiary Reliance Webstore and the handsets would be available in the market under the ‘Coolpad’ brand name.

China Wireless unit Yulong makes highly popular Yulong Coolpad smartphone models that are feature-rich and are mostly on dual technology that is on GSM + GSM or CDMA + GSM. Yulong's recently launched 3G mobile handset 'Coolpad N900' is being marketed in China with the title "iPhone Killer.”

Earlier, many companies, especially RCom and Tata Indicom, used to buy CDMA handsets in bulk from Chinese companies like ZTE and Huawei and sell it under their brand name. ZTE has sold over 25 million handsets in India through operators such as RCom, BSNL, Tata Teleservices and Vodafone. Now ZTE is targeting the GSM handset market in India.

The Indian mobile handset market is estimated to be around Rs26,000 crore, dominated mostly by Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG and Motorola besides HTC and Blackberry. Other brands include, Haier, Bleu, Spice, Videocon, Philips and some smaller brands like Simoco, Kyocera, Sagem, Micromax, Fly, Huawei, Xenitis, GeePee and Usha. Bird International and Kejian are present in India since 2003 and retail their handsets through their partners Agrani Convergence Ltd and Ragarhia group, respectively.

A few months ago, Essar group's Mobile Store launched China-made 'Ray' brand handsets. There are some companies which import Chinese handsets with IMEI number and sell it under their own label, like Maxx, Fortune, Karbonn and Olive.

Although these made-in-China handsets offer value for money to price-conscious Indians, there are some concerns as well. Mainly, these handsets do not offer any warranty or guarantee and there is no after-sales service available. In case your handset becomes "ill", then you can't get it repaired easily, as the spares and parts of these handsets are not available.

I used a Haier handset sometime back and one fine day it stopped working. The problem is minor, but despite running from pillar to post at many authorised service centres, the handset is still ‘dead’.

After-sales service is very poor in our country, even well-known brands do not offer prompt service. So in a way, if you want to have a cheap but good-looking alternative, opt for a China made handset, else stick to the branded ones. -Yogesh Sapkale [email protected]

-- Sucheta Dalal