The extended lockdown in India has resulted in zero shipments for the smartphone players in India in the month of April as factories are shut and it will take two-four weeks time for the manufacturing units to resume normal operations once lockdown is relaxed. The month of March saw a steep annual decline in smartphone shipments, at -19 per cent, due to COVID-19 nationwide lockdown that settled in from March 24.
Since then, factories are closed, retail shops are shut and online sellers are busy delivering groceries and other essential items. Result: April has seen almost zero sales.
"We see zero activity on smartphone shipments part in April and lockdown now entering May amid uncertainties, the Q2 2020 is going to be really challenging for the smartphone makers in the country," Tarun Pathak, Associate Director, Counterpoint Research, told IANS.
"We have been hearing some absolute essential sales happened behind the scenes during the lockdown but yes, those will be in hundreds as against potential 11-12 million smartphone sales which happen in a normal month," Pathak added.
All smartphone brands -- from Samsung to Xiaomi to Realme -- suspended manufacturing/assembling at their respective plants in the country almost from March 20 onwards. At Realme, there has been a complete suspension on sales and manufacturing since the first 21-day lockdown was announced.
"As per the government directives, our Greater Noida facility in Uttar Pradesh suspended operations from March 21, along with sales coming to a halt. We also postponed our Narzo series launch event and a few Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIOT) products that were scheduled for April," Madhav Sheth, Vice President, Realme and Chief Executive Officer, Realme India, told IANS.
"The bigger uncertainty comes on the demand side. If the nation's economy and people's income got hampered, then the smartphone demand in 2020 may not be optimistic. We will need to evaluate further how the economy recovers post the market reopen," Sheth added.
In a mobile-first nation, the mobile is a crucial gateway that empowers consumers with communication as well as education, retail, payments, entertainment. According to Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR, during the lockdown, consumers with faulty phones were in a quandary as they could not replace or repair it.
"Retailers lost out on a window of over five weeks without any sales. Once we move beyond the lockdown, we will see a reset in retail strategies, with social distancing norms in place. Online channels will seek to attract consumers with discounts to clear existing inventory," Ram added. "Over the mid- and long-term, online to offline will emerge as a sustainable strategy, with consumers placing orders online and fulfilling it at offline retail stores," he added.
If lockdown persists for the month of May while the staggered opening of the economy takes it own sweet time, smartphone makers will have no option but to write off Q2 2020 from their list -- a big blow amid supply-demand uncertainty that may last for several months, usurping the all-important festival season.