In terms of total subscribers, India’s mobile phone market is second only to China’s.
Despite this massive market’s potential, internet expansion appears to have slowed.
In October of 2022, 790,000,000 individuals were using their wireless broadband connections to access the internet through their mobile devices, according to the country’s telecom regulator.
About a million additional people signed up after August 2021, but not much more. After exploding by double digits between 2016 and 2020, growth in mobile internet subscribers has slowed to the single digits.
There has been a plateauing of growth in the use of smartphones as a means of accessing the internet. At present, there are over 650 million smartphone users in India, although this number has been stagnating recently.
The industry research firm Counterpoint reports that mobile phone sales dropped to 151 million units in 2018 from a high of 168 million in 2021. It is expected that sales would increase by a single digit percentage this year.
IDC, another industry researcher, said that people were upgrading smartphones every 14-16 months prior to 2015. However, they are now wanting a replacement every 22 months.
Rising component costs, a weaker rupee, and supply chain problems involving China, the world’s largest smartphone maker, have all contributed to an increase in smartphone prices since the outbreak. There are more than 300 parts used in cellphones that are created in India, and over 90% of them are imported.
There is less disposable income for a more expensive mobile phone since the domestic economy is faltering, people are losing their jobs, and their wages are being squeezed as a result. Nikhil Pahwa, a digital rights activist, argues that the slowdown in internet growth is a reflection of the economy.
Smartphone prices have increased by 50% in the past two years, from 15,000 to 22,000 rupees ($269; £220), as reported by Navkendar Singh of IDC. India is surprisingly price conscious for such a large market: 80% of devices sold here cost less than 20,000 rupees. “This should give us serious pause. The smartphone market share in the world’s second largest mobile phone market is significantly lower than in China “declares Mr. Singh.
Business owners like Anuj Gandhi of Plug and Play Entertainment are beginning to wonder if the smartphone market in India has peaked. “Where will greater growth come from when there are still so many people living in poverty?” he asks.
More than 350 million people in India utilise “dumbphones,” often known as basic handsets or feature phones, but could upgrade to smartphones if they had the financial means to do so. Half of these people are utilising gadgets that cost less than 1,500 rupees.
Due to the increased cost of smartphones and mobile data, only 35 million Indians will make the switch from feature phones to smartphones in 2022, whereas before Covid this number was about 60 million annually. This is according to Counterpoint’s Tarun Pathak. He claims that “the migration from feature phones to smart phones has slowed down significantly.”
It’s possible that the demand for “cheap” smartphones is being met by the robust and informal second-hand market, which is often overlooked. “Some of this need is being satisfied by the secondary market. However, we aren’t actually expanding our support system “According to Mr. Singh.
Having internet expansion slow down is bad news for India. Many people have trouble getting food stamps, rations, and immunisations from the government since they don’t have smartphones.
In only over one month, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a real-time cashless transaction network employing mobile applications backed by the government, has processed more than 250 million transactions daily. There will be “less cash, less card society” in India by 2025, according to the Reserve Bank of India.