Despite political tensions, Chinese phone brands stormed the Indian market in 2020



Last year, tensions between India and China were at their peak after multiple clashes at the border. Trade between the two countries fell 5.6% from 2019, and India has started reviewing investment proposals from Chinese companies. However, Chinese cell phone makers have had a solid year.

A report by analyst firm IDC suggests that Chinese phone makers held more than 70% of the market in 2020. This indicates that the majority of Indian consumers buy a device made by a company in the neighboring country. The report also notes that after several years of growth, the smartphone market fell by 2% in 2020.

IDC India Mobile Market Report 2020

Even in a year with the coronavirus pandemic and declining trade, brands such as Realme, Vivo and Oppo have shown growth in the Indian market. And while Xiaomi’s year-over-year growth fell 6%, it consolidated its No.1 position with 27% market share for the year. If we compare that to IDC’s 2019 report, the top five smartphone brands – four of which are Chinese manufacturers – have captured a larger share of the market in 2020.

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The majority of smartphones sold in India are assembled locally. However, there is also a heavy reliance on China to import key components that make up a phone. It would therefore not be in India’s interest to impose restrictions on trade in the device market.

The Indian government banned hundreds of Chinese apps in 2020, including TikTok, Helo and PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (PUBG) multiplayer game. This round of bans began after a border skirmish between the armies of the two countries in June. And since then the tech community is increasingly concerned that these restrictions may even reach computer hardware manufacturers. However, there is no sign of this as of yet.

So, as Chinese internet companies like ByteDance prepare to sell part of their business to Indian companies, their hardware counterparts are strengthening in the country. And that trend might not change unless there is a radical policy shift from New Delhi.

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