Tablets back in business

By: |
March 8, 2021 7:49 AM

Tablet brands focus on bigger displays and higher specs to cater to surge in demand

The company registered strong growth in CY2020 and also had the largest share in the premium segment (> `30,000), she added.The company registered strong growth in CY2020 and also had the largest share in the premium segment (> `30,000), she added.

The tablet segment, which had been de-growing for the last four years, is making a comeback. The pandemic has provided a shot in the arm to the tablet market in the country — according to a recent report by IDC, the tablet category recorded a 14.7% y-o-y growth in 2020, with the total shipments amounting to 2.8 million units. This is significant, considering that even in the fourth quarter of 2019, as per data from CMR, the segment had declined 18% y-o-y.

Nilesh Gupta, director, Vijay Sales, says the company had “written off tablets”. However, the shift towards digital last year, for learning as well as entertainment, has brought them back in demand, he says.

Although consumer sales of these products had hit a slump, they were witnessing robust sales from institutional channels in the pre-Covid period. This trend reversed in the wake of the pandemic. Consumer shipments recorded a 59.8% rise over 2019, states the IDC report, while commercial shipments for the segment fell 14.3% y-o-y.

Brands operating in the segment have now renewed their focus on B2C by adding new products to their range and strengthening distribution.

IDC’s India Tablet Market report names Lenovo as the largest player in the tablet segment, commanding 39% share of the market in 2020. Samsung comes in second at 32%, followed by Apple at 13%.

B2C beckons

Given the low uptake of tablets previously, manufacturers had stopped reviving their products. In fact, there were no new product launches between January and March 2020. Brands started to up their game only post lockdown, after witnessing heightened demand for these products. Lenovo, for instance, has introduced three new tablets since March 2020. Its new devices, such as Lenovo Tab P11 Pro and Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD, have bigger screens.

“Consumers are now seeking 10-inch and 11-inch displays, as against the earlier 7-inch, as tablets are being used by children for online classes or as a productivity device,” says Pankaj Harjai, director – tablets and smart devices, Lenovo India.

Acer, too, launched the Acer One 10 (10.1-inch display, priced at Rs 13,000) to cater to the demand for tablets with larger screen sizes. “We also introduced better specifications such as higher storage of 64 GB, 4GB RAM and 4G connectivity,” says Sooraj Balakrishnan, head of marketing, Acer.

The demand for feature-heavy, affordable tablets is on the rise. According to IDC, the $100-200 segment constitutes more than half of the total tablet shipments in India. Most companies are launching products in this sought-after price range. Vijay Sales, which had stopped stocking tablets pre-Covid, now has six SKUs of the product in the Rs 10,000-20,000 price range in its stores.

Tablet companies also rejigged their marketing and distribution strategies in the past year. Lenovo, for instance, expanded its presence to 2,500 outlets; before the pandemic hit, its retail presence was limited to 500 stores. Acer, meanwhile, brought tablets to the forefront of its marketing initiatives, and increased its marketing spends for the segment by 25%.

Stuck in the middle

The smartphone market in India — teeming with feature-heavy, affordable devices — poses a big threat to the tablet industry. “Smartphone displays have been increasing rapidly, and now stand at over 6 inches. In the pre-pandemic times, consumers would often opt for smartphones instead of entry-level 7-inch tablets,” says Jaipal Singh, associate research manager, client devices, IDC India.

With competition from smartphones in the value segment and from laptops in the higher price segment, tablets could find themselves on a sticky wicket.

Menka Kumari, analyst – intelligence group, CMR, says tablet manufacturers would need to differentiate themselves by bringing in new features and use-cases beyond e-learning to keep the momentum going.

Experts are hopeful that the demand from institutional sectors, especially healthcare, BFSI and the government, could drive the growth of this segment in future. Singh says there has been an increased adoption of tablets among small-town consumers, offering another growth avenue for companies in the segment.

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