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How Samsung plans to recoup marketshare in India

By Arnab Dutta
August 31, 2018 17:17 IST
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Samsung is betting on core capabilities like R&D to stay prepared for the new wave of technologies like 5G and IoT (internet of things).

Leading consumer technology firm Samsung India is transforming its business strategy, with a clear focus on the mass segment where rivals have been quick to corner market share.


Dongjin Koh, who heads the group’s IT and mobile communications business globally, told reporters on Wednesday that the India unit had been busy overhauling its strategy for six months now.

The Korean major lost the top spot in the second largest smartphone market last year, prompting corrective measures.

Koh is on a visit to India, primarily to launch its flagship Galaxy Note 9 targeted at the premium end of the smartphone market, though the company is looking hard at the mass market at this point.

The Note series of handsets is launched every year before or during the festival season in India.

The two variants of Note 9, priced Rs 67,900 and Rs 84,900, are expected to compete with Apple’s iPhone and the current market leader OnePlus.

Samsung’s troubled past with the Note series continues to haunt the company in India, as airport authorities have refused to lift the ban on use of Note 7 on its premises.

In 2016, there was a mass uproar against the Korean company due to multiple cases of Note 7 smartphones catching fire all over the world.

Koh said the firm was working on innovations in the battery space to prevent devices from catching fire.

According to Koh, the mass segment will now get significant attention.

“In October-November, we will start launching products that will differentiate by features and technology through innovation that are meaningful to customers here,” he said.

The move came after Koh, a Samsung veteran since 1984, identified a gap between its India subsidiary’s market approach and changing dynamics of the market here.

A meeting between its local partners and the CEO in February brought new realities to light.

“It is most important to listen to our customers and partners. Whenever I come here, I try and listen to them. India is one of my important markets, and we have a long history here.”

He admitted that the company was struggling in some areas.

Koh, who’s been visiting India three to four times a year for the past eight years, is concerned about the “harsh” competition that Samsung is facing in the market.

While the firm is well positioned in the premium end of the market, it is the fast growing mass segment where South Korean major has suffered.

Koh’s long association with the Indian consumer presented a clearer picture when he went digging deep into the root cause of the firm’s poor show.

“In mid-end mass segment, the competition is very harsh. It’s not just the products, we must constantly communicate effectively about Samsung, closely work with the government, focus on CSR activities.

"These steps will be important in helping us gain the trust and love of Indian consumers,” Koh said.

However, influx of Chinese manufacturers has made things difficult. Innovations in terms of new features has become “very tough”.

In fact, Koh is betting on Samsung’s core capabilities like R&D to stay prepared for the new wave of technologies like 5G and IoT (internet of things).

Two months ago, he met Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani to discuss a possible venture with Jio. The plan is to tap the market when 5G rolls out.

To begin with, Samsung is already realigning the fuel trucks that Reliance uses with its IoT-enabled products and services.

In the near future, it may look to tap the country’s automobile industry with IoT offerings.

Photograph: Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters

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Arnab Dutta in New Delhi
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