Reality check: Tablet hype dies down in India as sales drop

Written by P P Thimmaya | Updated: Jun 9 2014, 14:00pm hrs
TabletsThe hype over the tablet market in India seems to have died down as is evident by sales numbers of these devices for the first three months of the 2014.
The hype over the tablet market in India seems to have died down as is evident by sales numbers of these devices for the first three months of the 2014. This has set the stage for this segment to come out with further innovations in order to remain a relevant gadget for the ever changing demand of the consumers. According to IDC, the India tablet market shipments for Q1 2014 stood at 0.78 million units, representing a year-on-year drop of 32.8% over Q1 2013. The drop was primarily due to lack of new buyers in the market, it said.

The primary reason for this drop in sales was due the regulations of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and the emergence of phablet which continues to be remains strong threat to the tablet market.

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) compliance is certainly hurting the white-box market. International device vendors like Apple and Samsung grew in comparison against Q4 2013, posting significant double-digit growth rates in Q1. However at an overall level, the branded vendors were unable to capitalise on the space left vacant by the erosion from white-box and smaller vendors, said Karan Thakkar, senior market analyst of Tablets, Enterprise Client Devices and PC Monitors at IDC India.

The BIS certification has had its desired effect at least on the sub-standard tablets which were available in the Indian market. According to an official of a MNC PC company, Lot of these products were of junk quality which did not have any safety features and were not sturdy enough.

This saw the exit of many of these fly-by-night operators who had priced their products below R5,000 to lure the gullible customers. Today, only the serious players like Apple, Samsung remain in the market with a price tag of above R10,000.

The biggest hit the tablet market took in India was from the mobile phone segment. As the mobile phones got bigger in size adding more functionality, it was always a choice between the handset and tablet for a discerning consumer.

Sunny Sovit, of Pronet Services, a PC reseller said, Today one can purchase 5-inch screen size mobile phone for R7,500 and install a cheaper 3G internet plan. Why should somebody buy a tablet which has got limited functionality. He felt that majority of the buyers of tablets take this as their second or third device after a laptop and is mostly used as a recreation device.

Tablets are also being challenged by its inability to load large number of apps on the device and the battery life does not last long if it is plugged into the internet. According to IDC, the emergence of phablets (screen size 5.5 to 6.99 inch), continues to haunt the consumer decision making process. Tablets generally come with a screen size between 7 and 10 inches.

However, for the well established players the market has remained strong. IDC said that Samsung clearly led the tablet market in India. The strong performance of the brand in Q1 was supported by the good presence it held in the 7-8 inch screen size category.

Apples iPad mini continued to perform well in the market. Initial response for iPad Air also helped it post a strong quarter. Micromax took the third spot and accounted for 8.8% of the market share.

IDC anticipates the overall tablet market to hover around the same mark as reported in Q1 2014. Industry officials said that tablet market will continue to grow with lot more innovations expected from various players. The initial craze is gone and nobody is looking at this as cheap boxes anymore, an official of the MNC PC company said.