Is Dual SIM Nokia’s knight in shining armour?

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While the Indian telecom industry might be witnessing a rise in the number of Smartphones being launched in the market, it is still the dual SIM handsets that rule the roost.

Point in case: With Indian mobile phone sales crossing 50 million mark in Jan-Mar 2012, Multi-SIM handsets account for two-thirds of total sales in the overall India mobile handsets market. This is indeed a big number where established players like Nokia and Samsung have emerged as clear leaders.

Nokia  clearly retains majority market share with 23 per cent, followed by Samsung lagging far behind at second position with 14.1 per cent and Micromax at third position with 5.8 per cent share, in terms of  overall sales (unit shipments). The figures, as per Cyber Media Research, are for the period spanning January-March 2012. In addition, according to the research agency, within the price band below Rs 5,000 Nokia stands at 21.80 per cent, Samsung at 10.70 per cent and Micromax at 6.40 per cent market share.

Naveen Mishra, Senior Manager, Telecoms Practice, Cyber Media Research

Naveen Mishra, Senior Manager, Telecoms Practice, Cyber Media Research

Naveen Mishra, Senior Manager, Telecoms Practice, Cyber Media Research says, “Of late the smaller Indian brands have put forth a large range of dual SIM instruments, but Nokia and Samsung also have a large market share and have a large portfolio. There is a limited market for high end dual SIM phones in the country. Mostly these phones are used to differentiate between personal and professional. Niche users like to carry two phones instead of a single dual SIM handset.”

Cheaper by the dozen
Thus, the dual SIM segment caters mostly to the consumers at the bottom of the pyramid, these users cannot afford two different phones and are tempted by the offerings of the service providers, therefore they buy dual SIM handsets that can support two SIMs and are the more economical option. “There are three basic reasons for the dual SIM being the dominant segment in the market; firstly the instruments are used to rationalise the cost as a lot of consumers use lowest plans. Secondly, from the mid to the higher brand segment, the management of two separate telephonic identities as personal and professional and thirdly, since consumers are roaming, and facing network issues they can effortlessly switch between SIMs,” explains Kaustuv Chatterjee, Head Product Marketing, Nokia India.

But that doesn’t mean that consumers are not quality or brand conscious. They prefer a brand that has greater market equity and value. “Brands like Micromax and Lava are usually ‘add-on’ instruments, they are second or third phones used by high end users who operate more than two networks. If they are getting similar features from mainstream brands such as Nokia and Samsung they opt for that,” Mishra adds.

This is precisely why Chinese handsets that started with the low end dual SIM handsets pitted against companies like Micromax and Lava, could not take off in the market, even though they are technologically advanced. The fact remains that more evolved customers do not find the usage of such phones as estimable.

As a matter of fact, Vipul Mehrotra, Director and Head Smart Devices, Nokia India had earlier told Pitch, “When we went into the dual SIM market we brought innovations like easy swap, innovation at the simplest level to make these dual SIM phones much more user friendly so that everyone could use the product. Perhaps the easy swap is the reason for Nokia’s leadership in that segment.”

Top three vendors (Jan-March’12) in Multi-SIM category in their order of market share are Nokia, Karbonn, Micromax. The leader (Nokia) in this category enjoys twice the market share of its nearest competitor. Nokia’s Chatterjee explains the reason for the brand’s numero uno position. He says that Nokia caters to all segments from the lowest to the highest. For instance, at the high end Nokia has the C2-03 touch and type slider and at the lower end Nokia has the 101 with basic features.  “The innovativeness is what matters in this field; we have dual SIM phones that give good music playback quality sound plus loudness,” adds Chatterjee.

Vipul Mehrotra, Director and Head of smart devices, Nokia India

Vipul Mehrotra, Director and Head of smart devices, Nokia India

Price wise
In terms of pricing, the top end Nokia phones in the dual SIM category are priced around Rs 5,000 and the market is consistent for the same. There is no option of dual SIM above the Rs 15,000 range as the people want technological advancements, they want the latest stuff that has a brand value and is up market. The dual SIM handsets are considered as an old technology, usually bought by those who are utility conscious. However, when one spends above a certain limit one looks for iconic designs, latest cutting edge technology and style.

“Also it has been seen that the user segment at the bottom of the pyramid are the ones using the dual SIM handsets and the niche does not want to be associated with that. Price is a major factor but it varies from person to person. Someone who can afford a phone worth Rs 30,000 will prefer to have several other handsets to manage different networks and those who can afford one but want to utilise more than one network will definitely go in for dual SIM handsets. To an extent dual SIMs are taken as an aspiration based category,” Kaustuv appends.

According to the latest Cyber Media Report, the overall Indian mobile handset market recorded sales of 183 million units in CY 2011-12 out of which multi-SIM handset shipments accounted for 57 per cent, representing a year-on-year increase of 61 per cent.

Cost effectiveness
According to Nielsen data, a typical user has two SIM cards, but from different operators. What is interesting here is that users prefer to keep both SIM cards as prepaid to have a better control on costs as well as to capitalise on monthly deals offered by operators. A key observation by Nielsen is that for most Multi-SIM card users; there hasn’t been a significant increase in their monthly mobile expense despite maintaining two separate connections.

For every two out of five multi-SIM users, expenses have remained consistent. Only 12 percent users have reported a substantial rise in costs. A study by Nielsen found that overall, 13 percent of unique active mobile subscribers use Multiple SIM cards. The reach peaks in towns with a population of five to ten lakh, where 21 percent of the populace uses multi-SIMs but in a town class with 40 lakh plus population is just 11 percent.

It all boils down to youth
“Having 14 telecom players in the country, everyone wants the best data plan etc. This is the best opportunity for the TG to go and explore what are their offerings at the cheapest cost, for data and for calls, while retaining the old number. Where you see Airtel giving 1GB usage at Rs 99 and Vodafone giving 1.5GB at Rs 99, it is best to try out and see for yourself. The youth that constitutes 55 per cent of the total population under the age bracket of 35, likes to stay connected to Facebook, Twitter etc, they like to experiment with the data packs as they are a value conscious lot therefore they look at the most economical option,” says Micromax spokesperson.

Micromax also says that the youth has to manage within their pocket money and they want to get value for money. Thus, 95 percent of its phones are dual SIM enabled, be it a high end Smartphone, a mid range or the basic entry level model.

“Today the total industry approximately pegged at Rs 55,000 crore and 60 percent of the devices that are sold are the entry level models. Micromax is known for creating categories, be it QWERTY, dual SIMs or long battery life, we introduced the first sub 5,000 Qwerty devices, and we were the makers of dual SIM phones in India. When we launched the Qwerty dual SIM smartphones having everything for Rs 3,000, aspiring individuals bought it in volumes. The notion of value for money is important so we target the category that looks for utility and not too much of show.” the spokesperson adds.

Presence of multiple carriers in the Indian market ensures growth of this segment. Also, with the evolution of 3G, 4G network, dual SIM has extended its presence in the Smartphone segment. Today’s youth prefer to be on more than one network because of the contextual role they need to play in the society and the wide option available for them when it comes to mobile network.

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