The company said its figures showed that South Korean brand Samsung had recaptured the overall top spot, with a share of 24% of shipments for the first time. Xiaomi, which had been first since the third quarter of 2018, took 23% share, was second overall, but remained the top online brand.
Counterpoint's figures differ from those issued by its competitor Canalys last week; the latter said shipments had grown by 8% to 50 million units and Xiaomi had remained the top brand.
Canalys uses sell-in figures, while Counterpoint uses sell-in estimates based on the vendor’s IR results and vendor polling, triangulated with sell-through figures, supply chain checks, and secondary research.
The company said Apple led the premium segment (>INR 30,000 or about US$400) surpassing OnePlus even before its flagship launch, driven by strong demand for its iPhone SE 2020 and the iPhone 11, adding that the iPhone 12 would further strengthen its position in the coming quarter.
Counterpoint senior research analyst Prachir Singh said: “The Indian smartphone market is on a recovery path as the lockdown restrictions have been relaxed. The market has shown consistent growth for the last few months.
"It saw strong demand during the Independence Day period in August as major online platforms hosted massive sales. September has always been a high sell-in month as brands prepare for the upcoming festive season and push stock in the channels.
"Almost all the brands recorded growth compared to the last year. In terms of price bands, the mid-tier [INR 10,000 (A$191) to INR 20,000 (A$382.6)] segment registered the highest growth and reached its highest ever share in a quarter.
"Due to the pandemic, Indian consumers have ended up saving on leisure activities. These savings are now being funnelled into smartphone purchases. Additionally, smartphones have become an integral part of consumers’ lifestyle in this changing environment.”
Another Counterpoint staffer, research analyst Shilpi Jain, commented on the competitive landscape and brand strategies, saying, "During the start of the quarter, we witnessed some anti-China consumer sentiments impacting sales of brands originating from China. However, these sentiments have subsided as consumers are weighing in different parameters during the purchase as well.
"The brands have been quite aggressive as they started building up inventory much ahead of the festive season. Focus on online channels has been increasing due to the COVID-19 situation. Even the offline-centric brands like vivo, OPPO and Itel are increasing their online presence due to the changing consumer behaviour.
"Though online channels remain in focus, OEMs are also trying to leverage new opportunities in offline channels in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. In this regard, Xiaomi launched ‘Mi store on Wheels’, Samsung launched Galaxy M01 Core and vivo announced more retail discounts. Additionally, the brands are focusing on affordability by announcing cash-back [offers], promotions and offers on devices.
“On the manufacturing front, the Indian Government is focusing on increasing the local value addition. Mobile handset production is likely to increase as schemes like Production-Linked Incentive start to impact the overall electronic manufacturing ecosystem. Indian brands like Micromax and Lava are expected to leverage the government’s ‘Atma-Nirbhar Bharat’ initiative and plan their comeback.”