Major smartphone brands in India to end online exclusivity in 2020

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Major smartphone brands in India, including Samsung, have reportedly decided to end online-exclusive models starting next year. A report in 91Mobiles, which quotes an office-bearer of the Mobile Dealers Association, Ahmedabad, and mentions a note sent by All India Mobile Retailers Association (AIMRA) to its members, states that Samsung, Vivo, Oppo, and Realme have agreed in writing to level the playing field for online and offline retailers in the country.The report is short on details on Samsung’s plans but mentions specific changes promised by other major brands. If these companies stick to their word, the Indian smartphone market in 2020 could see the launch of new models at the same time, for the same price, and with the same offer for both online and offline partners.Xiaomi makes no such promisesInterestingly, Xiaomi, India’s largest smartphone brand and the company which kickstarted the trend of online-first and online-exclusive sales tactics, is not mentioned in the report, indicating the Chinese smartphone maker may continue to give preferential treatment for its online partners. If the biggest player in the market doesn’t back the move to level the playing field, other brands may find it challenging to go ahead with their plans.What’s also unexplored is the pushback from online retailers with billions in revenue. The likes of Flipkart and Amazon have used online-only smartphone models to expand their business in India rapidly, and they are not going to relinquish that advantage without a fight.Raises questions over Galaxy M seriesAs for Samsung is concerned, the company launched the online-exclusive Galaxy M series earlier this year in India to counter similar offerings from brands like Redmi and Realme. Though the M series shares many similarities with the offline-focused Galaxy A series, the former offers better specs at a lower price. If the Korean company decides to end this practice, then the Galaxy M series becomes redundant. It also remains to be seen how Samsung will address concerns of its offline partners while also continuing to compete with Xiaomi who doesn’t want to play by the same rules.Though the online smartphone market in India has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, the offline market still accounts for the majority of smartphone sales, more so for established brands like Samsung. With online sales becoming increasingly competitive and taking a toll on profits, newer smartphone brands in the country are looking to build robust offline sales channels, and they want to do this without leveling the playing field for offline partners. Naturally, there has been a pushback from brick-and-mortar stores that consider these online-first and online-exclusive sales strategies discriminatory.

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