Riding on the back of pre-Diwali shopping sentiment, India saw its highest-ever smartphone shipments in the July to September quarter, according to a new report by Hong Kong-based research firm Counterpoint.

The Indian smartphone market grew at 10 per cent year-on-year, and “reached a record 49 million units … offsetting the ongoing economic slowdown in other sectors,” Karn Chauhan, research analyst, Counterpoint, said in the report. The quarter on quarter growth reached 32 per cent, according to KrASIA analysis.

An attendee holds a Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone during a launch event in India. (Picture: Bloomberg)

Smartphones now account for two-thirds of all the mobile phones that are sold in India.

“This was mainly driven by the spree of pre-festive season launches, aggressive marketing and incentivised channel strategy to maintain sufficient inventory to cash in on the festive season,” Anshika Jain, research analyst at Counterpoint, said in the report.

Chinese equipment manufacturer Xiaomi, with 26 per cent market share, maintained its lead over Samsung. The South Korean smartphone company grabbed 20 per cent market share followed by Vivo at 17 per cent. Of the three, only Vivo’s market share grew – almost 6 percentage points – over the last quarter, while Xiaomi and Samsung saw a 2 per cent and 5 per cent decline, respectively.

RealMe, a sub-brand of Oppo, saw its market share grow to 16 per cent this quarter from 9 per cent in the last quarter. Oppo, the Chinese handset maker’s first and original brand, was the fifth-largest smartphone brand with an 8 per cent market share. Overall, four Chinese brands – Xiaomi, Vivo, Realme, and Oppo – reached record shipment levels in Q3 2019, and accounted for 67 per cent of the total shipments, the Counterpoint report stated.

“Given the maturity of smartphone users in terms of digital content consumption, commerce, and communication, smartphones have become central to people’s lives taking a priority in terms of their share of wallet,” said Chauhan.

For the current quarter, online channels are driving smartphone sales during the festive season – October to December period – and are likely to grab “a large share from the offline channels” in the current quarter due to their ability to serve more postcodes than ever, greater customer service, attractive promotions like discounts, cashback, EMI (equal monthly installment), and exchange offers, according to Jain.

In the first festive sales of the season, which ran for six days between September 29 and October 4, across all the major e-commerce platforms, mobile phones accounted for 55 per cent of the total sales of US$3 billion, Bangalore-based research firm RedSeer, said earlier this month.

As smartphone brands continue to expand their product portfolio with attractive advanced features – quad-camera, full view display, and fast-charging long-lasting battery, among others – for the mainstream as well as the mass market, Chauhan estimates that “the demand for smartphones will supersede other categories despite the uncertain economic climate.”

Last week, Fitch became the latest credit rating agency to slash down India’s economic growth forecast in the current fiscal (April 2019 to March 2020). The American firm lowered its GDP growth forecast to 5.5 per cent from 6.6 per cent it had earlier projected. Earlier this month, India’s central bank, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), while admitting the slowdown, brought down its GDP forecast for FY20 to 6.1 per cent from 6.9 per cent.