Connected Indians are choosy about where they spend on Smart Devices

18th December 2023
Connected Indians are choosy about where they spend on Smart  Devices
Assembling television sets in a Dixon plant in India, for Xiaomi, the largest selling brand. Photo credit_ Dixon Technology

‘Connected’ Indians Are Getting Choosy About Where To Put Their Money In Smart  Devices

By Anand Parthasarathy
December 18, 2023: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the ‘smartest’ of them all?
First it was smart phones – as aspiring, upwardly mobile Indians,  moved from that first physical keypad-based  feature phone to a touch-based, Internet-ready, smart handset. 
Then a galaxy of personal ‘connected’ devices and appliances ‘smartened up’,  spoiling consumers with a surfeit of options – smart audio wearables, smart TV, smart speakers, smart security…..the list went on.
But as we lurch towards 2024,  the euphoria seems to be wearing out, suggests 4th edition of the report ,‘India Connected Consumers Report 2024’  which was released by Techarc a few days ago.
Says Faisal Kawoosa, Chief Analyst and Founder Techarc: “What is worrying to witness is that the interest of consumers is declining in these smart devices as they fail to deliver real value to them beyond a point.”
This may also be a case of  smart fatigue – when manufacturers  smarten up everything in sight. The Techarc study ( read it in full here), classifies smart devices into six categories:
Smart Personal – Laptops including Chromebooks, Tablet PCs, Wearables.
Smart Entertainment – Smart TV, Streaming Devices, Smart Speakers.
Smart Comfort and Convenience – Smart Lights, Smart Switch, Smart Air Purifier, Smart AC, Smart Water Purifier, Smart Heater.
Smart Home Infra – Router, Thermostat, InfraRed Blaster.
Smart Security – Smart Surveillance Camera, Smart Door Lock, Smart Video Doorbell.
Smart Home Appliances – Smart Washing Machine, Smart Vacuum Cleaner, Smart Air Fryer, Smart Oven.
But while all smart things are equal, some are more equal than others.
Techarc,  helps separate  serious contenders  from the less meaningful applications. What this reveals is; the average Indian is more discerning than  is generally supposed and  makes shrewd priorities before buying into the smart story.
A smartphone is a no-brainer –the value proposition of a smartphone over a feature phone , of a touch screen over a keyboard, is overwhelming. “After widespread ‘smartisation’ of mobile phones, Smart TV is expected to show similar adoption trends”, finds the study
Smart television  is popular
The future of Smart TVs  is being  driven by 3is of Immersive experience, Intelligent features and Intuitive applications.  This  demands  more powerful processors that will also have emerging capabilities including AI processing to create  more compelling applications. In terms of display size, the preference, like the famous catchline of the  Godzilla movie, “Size does Matter”:    Indians  prefer  larger screen sizes (55-65 inches)  if they can afford them. They appreciate the value of audio and video enhancements: 97% of the smart TVs launched between January and September 2023, supported Dolby Atmos as a feature. Smart TVs need an operating system, much like a PC – and Google’s Android OS is the default OS for 73% of all smart TVs sold in the same period.   Sharper is better and 2 of every 3 smart TVs sold in India have ultra HD or 4K resolution
An October 2023 study by Counterpoint has another explanation for the perennial popularity of smart TVs:  Says Senior Research Analyst Anshika Jain: “The OTT services are helping in the growth of smart TVs due to the streaming of popular sports events, TV series, and movies, which creates stickiness among the consumers.” 
And then there is affordability: Says Counterpoint: Smart TVs with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision are now available in the price range starting from (as low as)  Rs 20,000
According to a  more recent (December 2)  Counterpoint study, Xiaomi leads  smart TV sales in India with a 10 % market share followed by Samsung, OnePlus, LG and Vu.  Today all these brands are  substantially made in India
Smart wearables
While not technically a home appliance, smart wearables – earphones, headphones, smart watches and health bands, merit mention  because  Indian companies are among the  world leaders in some of these categories. According to the latest ( December 14) study by Canalys, shipments of wireless headphones surpassed those of wireless earphones for the first time, predominantly due to vendors seeking stronger revenue drivers through wireless headphones and wireless earphones being replaced by TWS or True Wireless Stereo earbuds
The Indian brand  boaT is next only to Apple and Samsung in the global ranking of smart audio wearable market share
And domestically, the most recent IDC tracker rates  Fire-Boltt, a homegrown smart wearable brand as the best-selling  Indian smartwatch market with 23.6% market share in the third quarter of 2023.
 Connected  appliances? Naa!
The connected  smart home as a much touted buzzword in 2022 and much of 2023. But  it seems to be past its hype cycles. Techarc suggests: “Smart Home Appliances is another category which can’t convince the consumers enough about owning one.  The value addition needs to be significant for consumers to consider these options. Except for a router, which is a must to have a smart home, other Smart Home Infra devices too are not seeing a great adoption.”    Ditto for the smart comfort and convenience category.  Indians  don’t see much point in surrounding themselves with smart ovens, smart washing machines, smart air conditioners and the like.
 But they give a thumbs up to smart security – cameras, smart  video doorbells, burglar alarms.  Increasing urban insecurity and dissatisfaction with  police patrolling  may be contributing to so many households spending money on building their own home security cover.  Even non security product companies like Airtel encourage customers to set up wireless networked cameras.  
And somewhat aspirationally, many Indians seem to go for  smart (for mood as well as function) lighting. 
In the Smart Personal category which covers laptops, tablets and other productivity tools, Chromebooks, much hyped  -- not least by Google --  proved to be less than meets the eye. These underpowered  computing platforms need an always-on Internet connection and cloud storage  and clearly this is not perceived in India at least as   a very practical proposition.
Consumers are not  quite as dumb as some  marketing whizz kids assume
Techarc’s Kawoosa suggests: The decision making about selection of smart devices is increasingly taking place on more information about the features and construct of these devices.  Consumers want to see the real value of these devices and hence probe deeper about the features and functions as well as the components that make them.
To put it another way:  a big TV ad blast in the festive season, or during an IPL season, alone won’t cut it  And  buyers demand more information everyday:   “Consumers want smart devices OEMs to be transparent like smartphone OEMs who reveal their key component suppliers like chipset makers, display suppliers, camera module manufacturers among others.  This helps the consumers evaluate the products with deeper understanding as well as increase their confidence in the independent reputation and credibility of component makers.
If any one knows a paisa vasool product  when he or she sees one, the Indian buyer does.  Razzle dazzle doesn’t do it – sound value does.  A nice learning for the New Year.
This has appeared in Swarajya