The Smartphone Jihad and India

Yogesh Singh
Oct 8, 2016 · 6 min read

A few days back another smartphone of mine died, a phone from Taiwanese company ‘Asus’, manufactured in China. Now I’ve to search for a new and better phone in the same price bracket. Frankly, I was annoyed since a few months due to storage issues and wanted a new phone because the phone came with a lot of bloatware that could not be removed without rooting the phone, installing Custom ROM and blah blah blah. Now as I’m searching for a new phone, I can see how the Chinese manufacturers have intruded the market in every price sector. Though there is no denial that almost all of the smartphones are manufactured in China and “Make In India” seems, perhaps is, just a ‘Fairy Tale’. What I know about this is that manufactured parts are imported from China and then smartphone manufacturers assemble them in India. There are very few manufacturers who really manufacture in India but even here they do so in collaboration with China.

Well, I don’t have any problem with China, in fact, I want to give a hats-off to Chinese companies for lowering the smartphone prices and introducing the once said premium features in budget phones. I actually want to blame my own people for this, past Prime Ministers and Finance Ministers, who ignored the potential in the technology sector and still doing so! The Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru where all the tech giants sit, aspired and are still aspiring, for the situations to get better but they didn’t waited, they found a way around in the mean-time and that was to “COPY”, just like Chinese are doing for years! Home companies like Intex, Lava, Micromax and all others began their profit by importing the Chinese components and making their own low cost phones. Their businesses were flourishing but soon as China got to know about this high-profit game, they came, guns-blazing, gunning them all down and taking every possible spot in the Indian Smartphone Market, leaving no chance to rise up. Now all of these manufacturers are left to their misery.

Just last year phones from In-home companies were in boom, their businesses were thriving but in just one year Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, Lenovo, Vivo, Oppo, Huawei, Alcatel and lots of others showed no mercy and conquered the Indian Smartphone Market.

It’s not like that none of the local manufacturers didn’t tried, it’s just that their intention neither was and nor is to compete with the Chinese. The concrete reasons are Innovation and Funding. The CEOs, CTOs and CFOs just want their comfort. That’s why no one did appropriate efforts to get their spot back in the market. The talent, was and is getting wasted, and those who are wise enough are switching companies from local to foreign. Just like someone great personality said: Indian Government never looked towards the Silicon Valley. Every government overlooked the potential of the manufacturers and Innovators. If governments helped, India could have been one of the Silicon giants in the world, there could have been a whole world-leading industry here. But no one looked towards this direction. Now we are lacking Invention and Innovation.

Notion Ink’s Adam

Though there are a few companies which tried to invent or innovate but none is in lime-light today. Due to lack of funding and appropriate care, they are just running cheap. One company which I should really mention here, which is putting efforts on innovation is “Notion Ink”, others are just like beating around the bush. This company is doing an amazing job in producing off-the-edge products. Their first product which caught my eye was Notion Ink: ‘Adam’. This product is discontinued though but still it remains the most elegant tablet ever made (for me, if it is not for you). I’m not talking about India, it’s the most elegant tablet in the whole world! Better than iPad, Surface, anyone. When this product was introduced, it was like breakthrough in the market because this company really made something that no one thought of. From Hardware to Software, everything was eye-catching. Even their current products are state of the art. This company is as precious for India as Apple is for America. There can be many others like this if they try to.

The most important thing which I just mentioned and is missing in Indian Smartphone industry is ‘Innovation’. If invention is path to evolution, Innovation is like being an adult.

Now, coming back to smartphone search, no matter what price point I take there is a much better and Value For Money Chinese smartphone present and no matter how much thoroughly I refine my search, I always end up finalizing a Chinese smartphone. I must say Chinese have really taken themselves seriously in other markets. They have like formed a policy: you’ll intrude sub 10,000 market, you will tackle market upto Rs.15,000 and you take the higher end market, now go, release your phones, TV commercials and hit hard! “The Smartphone Jihad” from no one is safe. They have optimized every aspect of their smartphones, whether it is the hardware or it is the software. We stand nowhere against their sophistication.

The local manufacturers neither have a descent hardware nor they have properly optimized software. If I still buy a local smartphone, it’s like a dummy phone to me because it will not be as customizable as it’s Chinese counterparts. These local manufacturers make smartphones keeping illiterate people in mind, who do not have any know-how of a phone and are not heavy users. There is no feeling, there is no greatness and there’s nothing, just an ordinary ‘dumb’ smartphone.

Apple iPhone 7

But in the smartphone world there is a company that did nothing but still is everyone’s favorite: The sacredApple”! Yes, most of the things they showcase that “Yeah! You heard it right! Apple made this”, are actually made by someone else earlier, they just re-brand it but still they get all of the attraction. I’m not saying that they do not innovate, but everything that they have achieved is on the basis of technology that others made, the chances of their self-made technology are very few. Despite this, the last thing I want from my country’s tech industry is a company that can make smartphones just like Apple do (Not taking credit of others’ techs) because they do it very well. The hardware, the process of manufacturing and even the software is top of the class which is not present in Indian Tech industry.

I don’t know what the solution is to this infection but what I know is that it is eating the local smartphone market at very fast pace. If we can build cheapest and sturdy satellites, we can also build such smartphones (not just cheapest phones but premium ones too). To do this, industry requires remedy but before that, most importantly, a Doctor who can prescribe a correct medicine. A doctor and remedy for every company. The manufacturers also are required to stop feeling like sick, put more efforts, inject some innovation and regain their spot before it’s too late.

And, here I am again, adding another Chinese smartphone to cart, strengthening their economy, weakening my own by paying the price and waiting for the delivery…

Yogesh Singh

Written by

Interaction design, Photography and lots of experiments.

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