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Cell phones: India

Contents

Smart-/ cell- phones: production in India

Ringing Bells

The Times of India, Feb 19 2016

Pankul Sharma

Until Ringing Bells, Goel had small grocery shop

The whole country is today talking about Ringing Bells, Mohit Goel's Rs 251 smart phone His father Rajesh Goel, though, sitting in his smalgrocery shop that proclaims its name to be `Ram ji' on a grey board doesn't know what the fuss is all about. He says he always knew his son would do some thing big. Even in Garhipukhta asmall town in Shamli district o Uttar Pradesh, not many knew about the Goels or their shop. It's a different story today. They are suddenly all that everyone here is discussing. Goel Sr, who is now also one o the directors of the company the directors of the company said, “ After completing his schooling, Mohit went to Noida and competed his graduation from Amity University . The last time that he was home to meet us he had expressed his desire to open a company and I loaned him some money to start what he wanted to. Then he started a mo bile phone company and told us about his venture. Little did we know what it meant then. It's re ally big, is it? We also attended the event where Freedom 251mo bile was launched in New Delhi.“

Mohit, who is the managing director of Ringing Bells, has lived with his father at Garhipuk hta most of his life, often helping around in the grocery shop. On Thursday , Ringing Bells launched Freedom 251, the mobile phone, in a glitzy event in New Delhi that was attended by several dignitaries, including senior BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi.A few residents from Shamli were also invited to the launch.

After completing his schooling from Saint RC Convent School, Mohit earned his engineering degree from Amity University. He recently married Dhaarna, a Noida resident, who is now CEO of Ringing Bells.

6 lakh hits per second lead to co's website crash

This surely is a dampener after the excitement created around the Rs 251smartphone, unveiled by a Noida-based company -Ringing Bells. The company's website ­ only way to book the phone ­ could not f take orders on Thursday. According to those who logged on to the , website, bookings could not be made, even though some had logged in very early in the day. Earlier, Ringing Bells had said that people can make a booking for the phone from its website from 6 am onwards. However, the company ­ in a written message on the website ­ said that an overwhelming response to the offer had over-loaded the servers that , now needed to be upgraded. “... we are very grateful for your enormous response and your kind patronage and would submit that as of now we (have) received approximately six lakh hits per second. As a result of your kind overwhelming response, servers are over loaded. We humbly submit that we are therefore taking a pause and upgrading the service and will revert within or before 24 hours,“ the company said.

NOIDA is the hub: 2016

Pankaj Doval, Aug 26 2016, The Times of India


If you unclip the back of your new Samsung smartphone, or one from a homegrown brand like Karbonn, Lava or Intex, you might find a `Made in India' sticker there. And chances are that the device has been assembled in the Noida-Greater Noida region at Delhi's doorstep. Ever since the Centre introduced a 10.5% duty differential between imported devices and those made locally in last year's Budget, the region has become India's biggest smartphone hub, with a capacity to make more than 140 million devices per annum -40% more than a year's demand.

Not that Qualcomm and MediaTek are stamping out processors here -all the critical components still come from China and Taiwan -but it is a significant start for the industry . Sources said the local industry does about 5-8% of value addition at present, and this can be scaled up to around 35% within five years.

The flurry of investments to the region was perhaps prompted by the presence of Korean giants Samsung and LG. Samsung, which started local manufacturing a decade ago and reportedly has the highest installed capacity of 40 million devices per annum -the company did not confirm it -seeded a significant number of smartphone com ponent suppliers in the area.The company produces mobile phones from completelyknocked-down (CKD) kits.

“All our mobile phones, from feature phones to the Galaxy S7 that we sell in India, are manufactured at our Noida factory , and we will continue to explore future investment opportunities,“ a spokesperson for Samsung said.

Now Indian brands like Lava, Intex and Karbonn, besides Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron, have also set up shop. In partnership with home-grown telecom retailer and manufacturer Optiemus, Wistron makes phones for LG, China's OnePlus and Oppo, and Taiwan's HTC. Another Chinese vendor, Water World Technology , has partnered local company UTL Group, which is one of the backers of Karbonn Mobiles. Each factory creates 3,000-4,000 direct jobs, employing mostly high-school or ITI graduates.

Proximity to Delhi, where most home-grown phone brands are headquartered, has certainly helped the region bloom despite UP's iffy image as a business destination. “The promoters wanted operations in a region that remains within their reach and under their control,“ said Narendra Bansal, chairman of Intex Technologies, a major Indian phone brand.

“Noida's proximity to the capital, its growing infrastructure, and development as a large residential hub close to the capital's business districts also helped,“ the Samsung spokesperson said.

Intex, which has three factories in Noida with an annual installed capacity of 30 million phones (feature and smart), is now setting up a 20-acre base at Kasna in Greater Noida for a larger integrated facility that will also house key suppliers. “There are huge advantages here in terms of the cost and availability of labour. The power supply is largely uninterrupted and the productivity levels are even better than China's in many cases,“ said Sunil Vachani of Dixon Technologies whose company makes Karbonn and Panasonic devices in a joint venture. But is it easy to do business in UP? “The benefits may be less than in states like Andhra Pradesh, which offer incentives. However, operating in the south is difficult for a north-Indian brand. Moreover, the UP administration is supportive,“ Vachani added.

Lava managing director Hari Om Rai said availability of land in the Noida-Greater Noida industrial area has also been an important enabler. “There may be a few instances of difficulty in getting approvals, but the broader policies are clear,“ said Rai whose company has an annual installed capacity of nearly 36 million devices. “We have not faced interventions by the government.“

Now, even Chinese vendors and suppliers are gravitating to the region, drawn by its large production capacities. The manufacturing processes are still low-end, with a lot of assembly done manually , but efforts to increase local engagement and add sophisticated processes, such as the assembly of printed circuit boards (PCB), are on.

Analysts said PCB assembly will enhance the quality of local manufacturing. Also, there are efforts to develop R&D and design capabilities within the country , instead of relying on partners in China and Taiwan. “It will take at least 5-7 years to develop a high valueadd manufacturing set-up here,“ said Pardeep Jain, MD of Karbonn Mobiles.

IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said more initiatives are planned to boost the manufacturing of electronics.“Electronics manufacturing is a focus of the government as part of the `Make in India' initiative. The current investments have resulted in as many as 40,000 direct jobs and over 1.2 lakh indirect employment. We estimate that mobile phone production will reach a level of around 500 million devices by 2019­20.“

For now, uncertainty over the fate of the 10.5% duty differential in a GST regime is worrying investors, even though they have welcomed the simpler tax structure a GST will bring. “It will be near-suicidal to make fresh investments until GST is described,“ Jain said. “We do not want to gamble in such an uncertain scenario,“ Vachani added.

Minister Prasad said concerns around GST would be addressed.“Please remember, GST is for India.Surely , in the whole fiscal architecture we will ensure that Indian manufacturing interests are saved.“

Asked if the duty differential between local manufacturing and imports will be maintained, he said, “Obviously , why not... the interest of India's manufacturers will be kept in mind.“

2017/ production worth more than 1 lakh crore

Pankaj Doval, India-made phones hit Rs 1L cr in FY17, Feb 11 2017: The Times of India


Mobile phones worth nearly Rs 1 lakh crore are expected to be produced locally by the end of this financial year (2016-17), more than five times compared to two years back, as companies churn out around 200 million devices in one of the world's fastest-growing market.

The growth in output is a heartening development for the government, which has been pushing manufacture of electronics in the country , led by a lower duty regime for devices produced in-house.

“India will be producing mobile phones worth Rs 97,000 crore this fiscal, a quantum jump when compared to the Rs 18,900 crore achieved in 2014 15,“ IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told TOI here.

Prasad said that nearly 40 new factories have come up in the country during this period, and these have been joi ned by nearly three-dozen top ancillary makers. “If you look at the output, India is expected to locally-produce nearly 200 million devices this fiscal against 60 million units two years back.“

Local production enjoys around 12% incentive compared to imported products, and this has been a major incentive for companies to look inwards. A large number of companies have started manufacturingsourcing locally over the past two years and these include some of the top Chinese names such as Huawei, LenovoMotorola, Xiaomi and Gionee. Homegrown brands such as Intex, Lava, Karbonn and Micromax have also been boosting local output.

Smart-phone usage in India

iPhone sale in India, 2009-15; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, April 27, 2016
Retail market share by volume of smartphone brands priced between Rs.6,00- 15,000, in 2014 and Feb. 2016; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, April 14, 2016

2015-16: India is world’s no2 market

Sales of Mobile telephones/ cellular telephones in India, 2004-14 Source: The Times of India
The countries with the world’s highest number of smartphone connections, 2015-16

Pankaj Doval, India pips US in smartphone connections, Oct 27 2016 : The Times of India


Becomes No. 2 After China

India has become the second-biggest market globally in terms of smartphone connections, overtaking the US and trailing only China. More and more Indians are logging on the internet using their mobiles, aided by availability of low-priced smartphones -a significant number of them assembled locally and sold for as low as Rs 3,000 -and rapid expansion of 3G and 4G networks.

According to figures provided by global telecom body GSMA, smartphone connections in India at the end of the first half of this year (ending June 2016) stood at 275 million, higher than 259 million connections in the US. China, however, leads by a huge margin with overall smartphone connections at 910 million.

Alasdair Grant, the head of Asia for GSMA, told TOI that the growth in smartphone connections will continue to remain strong in coming years as 3G and 4G networks spread rapidly across the country .The growth will be fuelled further with the entry of new operators such as Reliance Jio.

Grant added that 4G connection base is forecast to grow from 3 million at the end of 2015 to 280 million by 2020. “Mobile broadband (3G and 4G) will account for nearly 50% of total connections in India by then.“

GSMA said mobile operators are investing heavily to improve network coverage, and this should see 3G being available to 90% of the population by 2020, while 4G to 70%, the latter registering a 14-fold increase from now.

Most of the mobile manufacturers have also read the trend as the majority of new device launches by them are only 3G and 4G compatible as 2G devices -which are mainly feature phones -are being discontinued. Total mobile users in India (some may carry multiple SIM cards) stood at 616 million at the end of June, GSMA said. “ Almost half of the country's population now subscribes to a mobile service, indicating the significant growth potential in the coming years, particularly from the rural and under-penetrated segments.“

In its `India Mobile Economy' report, GSMA estimates that 330 million new mobile users will be added by 2020. This would push up the mobile phone penetration base across the population to 68% against 47% at the end of 2015.

2016, a slide in sale

The Times of India, Jan 16, 2017

Minutes of usage per month, city-wise, 2016; The Times of India, Jan 16, 2017

Pankaj Doval, Dragon edges out Indian smartphone cos from top 5, Jan 25 2017, The Times of India


It has been a rapid slide for Indian smartphone manufacturers as Chinese companies strengthen their grip on buyers. Led by Micromax, homegrown brands have taken a beating as Chinese phone makers such as Vivo and Lenovo strengthen their hold, driven by new devices and aggressive marketing strategies.

None of the Indian brands figure in the top-five smartphone ranking released for Q4 of 2016, a far cry from the Q1 where three brands in top five were Indian, according to Counterpoint. The pressure from the Chinese brands is so intense that even Samsung, which still leads the market, has seen its share down at 24% in Q4 of 2016 against 29% in first quarter.

While Chinese brands have been investing aggressively over the last few years, their large-scale acceptance among buyers surprises many . The general perception was Chinese brands were poor in quality and lacked bandwidth to service their phones. But this has be en changing as Chienese companies make inroads into offline retail stores, while becoming highly-visible via heavy investments in big-ticket sporting and entertainment events.

Vivo came up strongly to finish the fourth quarter with a share of 10%, second behind Samsung. It was followed by Xi aomi, Lenovo and Oppo. “Indian companies are not refreshing product line-up. Their access to new technologies and components is limited,“ said Tarun Pathak, the telecom sector analyst at Counterpoint. “Chinese companies are winning offline retailers by giving them better margins.“

SIM cards

SC: Link SIMs to users' Aadhaar IDs

Dhananjay Mahapatra, Link SIMs to users' Aadhaar IDs: Court, Feb 7, 2017: The Times of India


The Supreme Court directed the Union government on Monday to register identity details of all 105 crore mobile phone users by linking their SIM cards to their Aadhaar number. While giving this direction to the Centre, a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana commended advocate Ashok Dhamija for filing the PIL on behalf of NGO `Lokniti Foundation' seeking 100% verification of cell phone subscribers with regard to their identity and address by linking their phone numbers to their Aadhaar cards.

Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said the Union government was agreeable to the idea. “But the task is gigantic as more than 90% of the 105 crore subscribers are using prepaid SIM cards. These SIM cards get recharged at roadside kiosks, making it difficult to register them,“ he added.

The bench said, “The gov ernment has to devise a method. The person who comes for recharge of the phone should be given a form to give his details including Aadhaar number. He should submit the filled form the next time he goes for recharge. You can give him more time. May be three or four recharges before he furnishes the details. But make it mandatory that he must furnish details or else there would be no recharge of prepaid SIMs.“

The AG said, “Taking coercive measures immediately could be difficult. After demonetisation,cell phones are used for several activities. How long it would take to register each and every cell phone user is difficult to estimate.“ The bench would have none of it and told the AG that the government may take one year to complete the task but it has to do it.When the AG said the government would put in place an effective mechanism to register details of all subscribers, the bench disposed of the petition saying it would be done not later than one year.

Tax on chargers

Levy tax on chargers sold with cellphones: SC

Dec 20 2014, The Times of India

AmitAnand Choudhary

The Supreme Court has held that chargers sold with cellphones should be taxed separately as they are not part of a phone but are an accessory and turned down a plea by Nokia for treating them as a composite product.

The SC said merely making one package of a phone and a charger will not make it a composite product and quashed the Punjab and Haryana high court order which held a charger cannot be excluded from the concessional rate of tax which applies to cellphones. The case pertains to Punjab where under state Value Added Tax Act, sale of mobile phone is taxed at 4% while charger is taxed at 12.5%.

“If the charger was a part of cellphone, then cellphone could not have been operated without using the battery charger.But in reality , it is not required at the time of operation. Further, the battery in the cellphone can be charged directly from the other means also like laptop without employing the battery charger, implying thereby , that it is nothing but an accessory to the mobile phone,“ a bench of justices SJ Mukhopadhaya and Madan B Lokur said.

Cell phone gaming

The Times of India

Cell phone gaming, estimated: 2013 and projected: 2014-2018

Apr 24 2015

Narayanan Krishnaswami

A new generation of entrepreneurs who have grown up playing Super Mario Brothers and God of War are making the most of low-entry barriers to create startups focusing on mobile games. They are making a mark in the international market even as they cater to India's growing smartphone user base

Last week, Udupi-based Robosoft raised Rs 74 crore from Ascent Capital and Kalaari. Part of that money will be invested in develop ing new games, as well as acceler ating the growth of Star Chef, the flagship title of Robosoft subsidiary and mobile game-maker 99games. Star Chef is a restaurant-themed building game. Released in August last year for the iOS, the game has seen more than 1.2 million downloads, with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 across more than 35,000 reviews, says Anila Andrade, a producer at 99games.“Nearly 4.5% of our users are paying users -with one user having spent as much as $4,800 so far,“ she says.

“Monetization rates in the mobile gaming industry average 1-2 %,“ says Amit Khanduja, EVP of Reliance Gaming. In that context, Andrade's pride is justified. But low monetization levels are not deterring entrepreneurs, or investments in mobile gaming. Earlier this year, Moonfrog Labs raised $15 million as Series A funding from Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital. Before that, Sequoia had invested in Delhi-based Octro. Both Moonfrog and Octro make mobile versions of Teen Patti, our own variant of poker. And just over a year ago, GSN Games, the US social casino games maker, bought Bengaluru-based Bash Gaming for around $165 million.

NEW GAMES, NEW FACES

The new generation of India's entrepreneurs are people who grew up playing games -whether it was on old Nintendo Game and Watch devices, mobile-sized devices with controls on either side, with titles like Octopus and Parachute, or on later consoles like the PlayStation. For them, games are a labour of love, and they have the confidence of youth. It's not surprising that the mobile game development industry is taking off in India, in a way that PC game development or console game development never did. The entry barriers are much lower, for one. The Unity 5 game engine, one of the most popular development platforms for games, is available for free.

The game makers include the usual suspects, engineering students with a desire to do their own thing, but there are others as well. Raoul Nanavathi is a 27-year-old graduate of economics and political science who runs Mumbai-based BYOF Studios. He worked for WOI, a company that specialized in making in-flight games for airline companies, before striking out on his own. BYOF's Discover-O, a deceptively simple game that involves colour matching, made it to the top five games of Pocket Gamer Connects, the mobile games conference held in Bengaluru last week.

Nalin Savara is a garrulous 30-something whose conversation swings easily from Jung and Freud to the use of stereotypes in story telling. Savara quit his job at Escosoft, started a gaming company called Darksun Tech, and is now working on BlokStok, a fighting game where recognizably Indian characters battle it out in front of recognizably Indian backgrounds.

Himanshu Manwani quit his job and moved in with his parents in Bhopal. The 25-year-old wanted to make a game that would recapture the experience of playing Super Mario Brothers or Super Meat Boy. Manwani built Super Nano Jumpers solo. Design, art, coding, testing -the works. It was a difficult time for Manwani. Despite his parents' support, there were always people who felt that he should be working, and not pursuing a fool's dream. All that changed last week, when Super Nano Jumpers won the first prize -Rs 10 lakh -at the Big Indie Pitch, the culmination of Reliance Gaming's Game Hacks held around the country over the course of last year. Now, Manwani has used his prize money to get himself an iPhone and will be hiring people to help him with his next project.

Mobile gaming is a cut-throat business. Games make up 21.45% of 1.4 million plus apps on Apple Store, by far the largest chunk. The next highest category , business apps, make up just 10%. And a good mobile game has to hold the downloader's interest if it is to survive. You could call it the “seven second churn“. If the game doesn't hook the user in its first seven seconds, it's unlikely that it will be a success.And if the interval between the first and second time the user plays a mobile game is greater than seven days, that user is probably lost.“There are three simple things about making a great mobile game,“ says Manish Agarwal, CEO of Reliance Gaming. “The game should be easy to pick up -the gameplay must be easily mastered. It should give the impression of being easy . It should not be easy. Simple rules, but very difficult to implement“.

“What Indian developers lack is confidence,“ says Chris James, MD of Steel Media, the organization that runs PocketGamer, the influential mobile app site. “That's probably because they lack history (in making games)“. But that doesn't mean that the games are bad, though.James says that the quality of mobile games he'd seen made by Indian gamemakers is “very high, as high as (those) made in London or elsewhere“. The Guardian newspaper's games editor, Keith Stuart, who was in Bengaluru for Pocket Gamer Connects, said his preconceptions about Indian mobile game developers were “not so much challenged as kicked in the face“.

BIGGER THAN E-COMMERCE

Nitish Mittersain is CEO of Mumbai-based Nazara Technologies, one of India's oldest gaming companies. They've been around since 2000, but he believes the next few years are going to be crucial. “The number of smartphone users in India is going to go up from 130 million to anywhere between 300 million and 500 million. The market for mobile gaming will take off in India over the next three to five years,“ he says. “As games get better, we will see more and more Indians willing to spend money on things like in-game purchases“. Nazara is also partnering with small companies, co-developing games with them. “We see a lot of young people developing games, we can provide money and mentorship and help them reach a larger market,“ he says. That's a tack that Reliance is taking as well. “We will co-develop games with promising developers, those with good ideas and the passion that's needed to deliver a great game,“ says Reliance's Agarwal. “Remember Flipkart a few years ago? This is going to be bigger than e-commerce“.

See also

Telecommunications, India: 1

Telecommunications 2: Indian government data

Cell/ Mobile phones: India

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