While Realme has given an official communication to the retailers in this regard, Oppo and Vivo have agreed in-principle to restrict any online-exclusive play on their smartphones, the executives said.
They have decided to stop online launches from January as they have agreements with online sellers till December. These three brands have around 30% share of the Indian smartphone market till June, as per the latest data from tracker Counterpoint Research.
Offline retailers have been protesting against online exclusive smartphone models because consumers often buy them at lower prices than similar models sold offline. Some brands too launch new models first on the online platform and then offline, and these online models also get heavily discounted during sale events.
“Realme has decided that there will be complete parity between online and offline retailers with no exclusive model, exclusive period of launch, price or brand offers from January,” said Arvinder Khurana, president of All India Mobile Retailers Association (AIMRA), the pan-India body of offline cellphone retailers. “Even Oppo and Vivo have assured us that they would do something similar, though official communication is awaited,” he said.
AIMRA and state-level cellphone retailer bodies have been meeting senior executives of India’s five largest smartphone brands — Xiaomi, Samsung, Vivo, Realme and Oppo — over the past couple of days to press home their demand for a level playing field with ecommerce.
“Our business is badly down since Navratri when the ecommerce discounts started since the online-exclusive models and offers on them have killed our business completely,” said Vibhooti Prasad, president of Mumbai Mobile Retailers Welfare Association, which represents 3,500 cellphone retailers in the city. Industry executives, however, said Xiaomi and Samsung officials have not yet committed anything to the offline retailers on ensuring price parity. The retailers are taking legal opinion on how to control the online models and offers from these two brands.
Realme India chief executive Madhav Sheth said the company believes in fair trade practices, offering similar benefits to online and offline customers, with same price for its products. “Any offers available on platforms are run by respective retailers and not by the brand,” he said.
An Oppo India spokesperson did not specifically comment whether it will launch online exclusive models or not. “Having an aggressive omni-channel approach has helped us achieve healthy growth in the Indian smartphone market. Keeping in lieu of the same, we plan to continue launching our products across channels going forward,” the person said.
Emails sent to Vivo, Samsung and Xiaomi did not elicit any response as of Thursday press time.
AIMRA’s Khurana said business is down 30-35% since Navratri, and Diwali too seems to be a washout in sales like last year.
“Over 30,000 cellphone stores have shut in the past year and a few thousand jobs have been lost. We need brand support to revive offline business,” he said.
As per market trackers, ecommerce accounts for 40% of the Indian cellphone market with the rest controlled offline, including neighbourhood stores and large chains like Reliance Digital, Croma, Sangeetha, Big C and Poorvika.
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