Apple given golden opportunity to crack India with relaxed rules

Apple has struggled to gain any sort of traction in the Indian markets to date, but new Government rules could perhaps open the door a crack.

India is a market which represents a significant opportunity for the major players in the digital economy. It has the second-largest population globally and a smartphone penetration rate of roughly 24%, but one of the few markets worldwide where smartphone shipments are increasing quickly. Thanks to certain market disruptions, India is currently under-going its own digital revolution, with the increasingly wealthy middle-class easing into the digital euphoria Western consumers have been accustomed to as the norm.

Year Smartphone penetration1 Average income (US $)2
2018 23.9% 2,020
2017 21.9% 1,830
2016 20.4% 1,690
2015 18.6% 1,600

1Statista 2World Bank Group

The evolution of India and the surge of the digital economy in the country is moving at a dramatic pace. The opportunity for profit is monstrous, but this is a tricky market to crack.

This is the conundrum which Apple is currently facing. It currently has less than 2% of market share across the country (which isn’t increasing), and premium prices are stifling any genuine ambition to increase this.

Indian consumers are gradually spending more on devices, though by the time Apple’s prices would be deemed palatable, other brands might have already developed a strong sense of loyalty; do not underestimate the power of the Android/iOS divide.

Brand Market share
Xiaomi 31%
Samsung 26%
Vivo 6%
Oppo 6%
Realme >1%
Apple >1%

Figures curtesy of Counterpoint Research – Q2 2019 shipments

However, there is a glimmer of hope. The Indian Government has this week announced it will relax rules which dictate how foreign companies can operate in the country. Fortunately for Apple, the easement will allow it to sell directly to customers through its eCommerce channels.

In by-gone years, a foreign company had to source 30% of its production locally to create a retail presence in India. This presence includes online channels. With such reliance on China for the manufacturing elements of the supply chain, Apple has always struggled to meet these requirements. As a result, Apple’s devices have been sold through local partners, who add a premium to an already premium product; it has struggled to gain a foothold in the market.

Another element tied to this is the brand story. The Apple Store is a presence in 25 countries around the world, not only presenting a direct-selling opportunity, but a chance to offer an experience to current and potential customers. This is a fundamental building block in the Apple strategy, which is all about creating a brand and an identity to cultivate customers into the loyal iLifers you see around the world today.

Thanks to new elements being considered by the Indian Government, Apple now meets the requirements and will allegedly begin selling products through its own eCommerce channels in the coming months. These new considerations take into account more iPhones will be manufactured in India, not only for Indian consumers, but for export to Europe as well. This is massive win for Apple.

In short, there are two massive benefits for Apple. Firstly, it can own the purchasing relationship with the customer, dictating the messaging and reducing the price while maintaining profit margins. Secondly, it can begin to create the Apple experience for customers to nurture the sense of loyalty which is so critical to the Apple success over the years.

Apple is an incredibly successful smartphone manufacturer because it creates excellent devices, but the work which has been done to build loyalty with its customer base should never be underestimated.

Think back to the 90s and 00s when you saw Apple adverts on TV. None of these adverts ever really discussed products in the way you would expect but talked about the Apple experience. A huge proportion of advertising today is designed around story-telling and brand experience, but Apple was arguably one of the first to do it and remains one of the best at building this experience.

The result of these campaign was an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality which persists today. Whether it pins iOS versus Android, or Mac versus PC, the split is very apparent, and crossover is very rare. Not only does this segmented approach maintain loyalty for the individual products, it presents significant cross-selling opportunities. How many iPhone users have an iWatch, an iPad or a Mac also? We suspect a high percentage.

Shifting people into, and keeping them in, the Apple universe can partly be attributed back to the brand marketing campaigns, the closed ecosystem and ownership of sales channels and brand experience. And now, it presents another massive opportunity moving forward; software and services revenues.

Period Net sales Software and services revenue Percentage of total
Q3 2019 53,809 11,455 21.2
Q2 2019 58,015 11,450 19.7
Q1 2019 84,310 10,875 7.7
Q4 2018 62,900 9,981 15.8
Q3 2018 53,265 10,170 19
Q2 2018 61,137 9,850 16.1
Q1 2018 88,293 9,129 10.3

Figures taken from Apple financial reports – USD ($) in millions

Apple CEO Tim Cook has made a big deal about software and services, and he is very right. It attracts recurring revenues without the R&D and manufacturing price tag. There will of course still be R&D, but smartphones are very expensive products to produce at the level Apple customers demand.

Generating revenues through AppleCare, iTunes, Apple Music, iCloud, Apple Pay, Apple Books, Siri, maps, search or TV subscription services becomes substantially more profitable once people are bought into the ecosystem. And as you can see from the table above, it is becoming an increasingly important facet of the financial spreadsheets.

With many users persisting with the OS they have become accustomed to, if Apple wants to make India a profitable market, it will have to start embedding itself in the minds and lives of Indian consumers today.

The Indian market is one which offers great prospects and profits for those who play their hands wisely. Up to now, Apple would have been written off by many industry commentators, but will changes to the rules, the door is slightly ajar. But that is all it is right now.

Apple will have to convince smartphone users it is a better alternative than the Android ecosystem, while also justifying the premium it traditionally charges for products. This will be a very difficult battle, but Apple is in a better position today than it was yesterday.

Vodafone Idea’s struggles continue as it loses its CEO

Balesh Sharma, the CEO of Indian operator group Vodafone Idea, has decided to call it a day less than a year after it was created.

Sharma decided to step down ‘for personal reasons’, which could mean anything. There doesn’t seem much gossip out there but India’s Economic Times has a source that reckons Sharma’s departure was prompted by a perception that the merger between Vodafone India and Idea Cellular could have been managed better.

“Vodafone Idea had a top leadership strategy meeting last week, at which the company felt that failure to smoothly integrate the two companies soon enough and the resulting delay in rollout of 4G network had caused a ‘de-growth’,” said a claimed company executive who wanted to remain anonymous. The company needs to aggressively target customer acquisition. Also, only marginal synergy benefits are accruing. It is reflected by the revenue de-growth.”

Just the use of wonderfully corporate-speak terms like ‘de-growth’ alone is enough to convince us this is a legitimate corporate type, since no normal people use words like that. Since the catalyst for the merger, Reliance Jio, has gone from strength to strength in the past year it seems questionable to blame poor performance on botched integration. But corporate boards will always look to deflect blame away from themselves, and maybe decided it was time to scapegoat Sharma.

“I would like to thank Balesh for his leadership and the successful integration of the two businesses,” said Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman Aditya Birla Group and Vodafone Idea Limited, possibly in anticipation of such a theory. “Under Balesh’s stewardship, Vodafone Idea has realised a significant proportion of the synergies in a much shorter timescale than originally estimated.”

To be fair the Vodafone Idea board has put forward one of its own to see if he can do any better. “I am pleased to welcome Ravinder Takkar as our new MD & CEO,” said Birla. “Ravinder is well versed with the Vodafone Idea business context and I am confident that he will successfully steer the company through the next phase of development and help unlock its full potential.”

No pressure then.

Is Xiaomi filling a Huawei-shaped hole in the smartphone market?

Huawei might be suffering in today’s political climate, but every action gets a positive and negative reaction and could Xiaomi be benefitting from its rival’s misery?

The Chinese challenger brand might have missed on market expectations for revenue, but it is not the worst set of financial results you have ever seen. Looking at the most simplistic measure of a company, it made more money than last year, brought in more profits and sold more products; not too bad.

“Thanks to the Xiaomi relentless efforts, we have managed to achieve solid growth in our businesses, posting a consensus-beating profit and becoming the youngest Fortune Global 500 company in 2019, despite global economic challenges,” said Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun.

“Our performance is testament to the success of our ‘Smartphone + AIoT’ dual-engine strategy and the Xiaomi business model. Looking ahead, we will continue to strengthen our R&D capabilities and investments so as to capture the great opportunities brought by 5G and AIoT markets and strive towards ongoing achievements for the company.”

Financial analysts will be pouring over the spreadsheets to understand why Xiaomi seemingly missed market expectations, but let’s not forget, the smartphone market is in a notable slump right now. Sales are slowing and the 5G euphoria is yet to hit home to compensate. No-one is immune from overarching global trends.

However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the majority of smartphone manufacturers; there are gains to be made from the Huawei misery.

According to the latest smartphone shipment numbers from Canalys, Huawei’s smartphone shipments in Europe have declined year-on-year by 16%, while Samsung and Xiaomi have grown their numbers by 20% and 48% respectively. Other factors will contribute to the increase, though there will be former-Huawei customers who are seeking alternatives brands at the end of their replacement cycle.

Huawei is in a bit of a sticky situation right now. Firstly, its credibility has been called into question, thanks to President Trump’s trade war, while its supply chain is suffering due to the tariffs from the aforementioned trade war. The supply of critical components is under threat, as are security updates from Google’s Android operating system. Both of these concerns will impact consumer buying decisions.

Looking at Huawei’s financial figures, the consumer business unit is still on the rise, revenues were up 23%, though when you take into consideration the analyst estimates, it would seem these gains are from the domestic market. If Xiaomi can avoid collateral damage, it could benefit from Huawei’s alleged downturn in the international markets.

This does seem to be the case. For the first half of 2019, Xiaomi’s revenues increased 20.2% year-on-year to roughly $13.55 billion. The international markets, an area of significant potential for Xiaomi, accounted for 42.1% of the total, compared to a 36.3% proportion in the same period of 2018.

The gains in Europe have been highlighted above, though the Indian market is looking like a very profitable one. IDC estimates suggest Xiaomi is still leading smartphone shipments in India and has done for the last eight consecutive quarters. Estimates from eMarketer state smartphone penetration will grow to 29% of the Indian population in 2019, year-on-year growth of 12.5%. There is still a massive amount of growth potential in this market which is undergoing its own digital revolution.

Another area which has been highlighted for gains by the Xiaomi management team is the increasing diversity of the product portfolio.

Aside from the Mi 9 series and Redmi Note 7 series, the team launched the new K20 flagship during the second quarter, with shipments exceeding one million in the first month. The CC Series has also seemingly gained traction with female audiences, while the Mi MIX 3 5G was one of the first 5G compatible devices to hit the market. Numerous telcos have partnered with Xiaomi for this device, suggested the team is taking the shotgun approach as opposed to signing exclusive partnerships.

What is clear, Xiaomi is a smartphone manufacturer which is heading in the right direction. However, the gains could be increased should the misery continue for Huawei.

India smartphone sales on the up

Most of the world might be experiencing dip with smartphone shipments, but with India playing catch-up in the digital economy, device sales are continuing to rise.

According to new estimates from IDC, Q2 registered the second-highest ever number of smartphone shipments in India. 36.9 million smartphones were shipped in the quarter, 9.9% year-on-year and 14.8% quarter-on-quarter growth, while a total of 69.3 million mobile phones were shipped to India.

This is a country which is under-going its own digital revolution, admittedly a few years after some of the Westernised markets, though it does present opportunities for bewildered and down-beaten smartphone manufacturers.

“Despite the efforts towards multi-channel retailing by almost all vendors, the online channel continued its growth momentum fuelled by multiple new launches, attractive offers and affordability schemes like EMIs/cashbacks,” said analyst Upasana Joshi.

“This resulted in YoY growth of 12.4% for the online channel with an overall share of 36.8% in 2Q19.”

Globally, smartphone shipments are on the decline. Estimates suggest shipments are at the lowest levels since 2014, which can be attributed to a number of different factors. A lack of innovation might be putting people off purchasing new devices, with new flagships offering little more than incremental upgrades. The price of these new devices might also have the same impact, though it is providing a surge for the second-hand market.

Another factor to consider is the up-coming 5G revolution. Telcos are building the hype around 5G, and if consumers buy into the euphoria, why would they consider purchasing a 4G device when more affordable 5G-compatible devices might just be around the corner. The last thing the consumer wants is buyer’s remorse.

These are not necessarily factors which are that influential in India however.

Although it has been considered a growth market for decades, the reality never really fulfilled the promise in telco and technology. Sluggish telcos were happy to sit back and quietly collect profits as aging networks and a pre-historic approach to business slid India down the global digital rankings. And then Jio entered the fray.

Taking a data-centric approach to telecommunications, Jio forced a digital revolution onto the Indian society and dragged the traditional telcos into the 21st century. The result is better and more inclusive networks, consumers using more data and digital applications, leading to increased sales of smartphones.

As IDC points out, 2G and 3G device shipments are gradually declining, while 4G smartphones are on the up. The average cost of devices is also increasing, the $400-$600 segment is the second-fastest growing segment, though the premium segment ($500+) is also starting to gather momentum. 72% of purchases are below the $200 threshold, though $200-300 is the fastest growing area.

This is market which still has a lot of growth potential, not only because of smartphone penetration, but also the ability to upgrade customers to more premium handsets. Let’s not forget, this is a country with a population of 1.339 billion; there will be plenty of opportunities to make money as long as Jio continues to drag the industry forward.

But who are making the most of this digital boom:

IDC India smartphone shipments

These are the smartphone manufacturers who are embracing the mid-tier smartphone segment. Numerous other, more established players, are scaling back in this market, choosing to more dutifully embrace the high-tier. This is an interesting decision.

Firstly, it not necessarily a bad strategy. A significant refreshment cycle for premium smartphones is on the horizon as 5G gets a better grip around the world. There are billions of users who will want to upgrade over the next couple of years; this is big business for those who make a name for themselves in the premium 5G market.

However, there might also be the negative consequence of brand loyalty. India is upgrading to 4G now, prioritising the purchase of mid-tier devices. This is where numerous Western markets were 4-5 years ago. Some might not want to engage mid-tier purchases, bigger profits are elsewhere, but they will miss out on forming a loyalty relationship with this monstrously large market.

India is surging forward into the digital economy, and there are many brands who are embracing the market through this transition. The likes of Xiaomi, OnePlus, Oppo and Realme are using this momentum to challenge the status quo. There might well be a horde of new device manufacturers to consider in a few years.

Nokia getting prickly in India over non-payments

Reports have emerged out of India suggesting Nokia is on the verge of limiting its relationship with state-owned telco BSNL over non-existent payments.

According to The Economic Times of India, numerous vendors are becoming frustrated with on-going challenges in the India market, and the knock-on effect this has on payments of dues for products, solutions and maintenance. Nokia is allegedly on the verge of limiting its activities with BSNL due to frustration.

BSNL is one of the firms which is being hit hardest by the disruption in the market. Prior to the entry of Reliance Jio, the Indian market was relatively stagnant. A lack of innovation or desire to do anything out-of-the-norm, dragged India down the connectivity rankings. This was a market which was miles of the global average when it comes to digital progression, but Jio caused absolute chaos.

Although all the traditional telcos have struggled to adapt to the new status-quo, BSNL seems to be being hit one of the hardest. And this pain is being passed onto vendors.

Sources close to conversations between the telco and the vendor suggest the Nokia management team is heading towards the point of no-return.

“There is tremendous pressure on us,” the source said. “We have been asked to shutdown services we offer to BSNL by the top management executives in the headquarters due to continued nonpayment of our outstanding amount.”

At the time of writing, Nokia had not responded to confirm or deny the reports, though it would surprise few if the management team was becoming a bit more miserly.

According to the reports, Nokia is owed Rs 800 crore (roughly $110 million) for various network product and services. BSNL currently has 115 million subscribers across the country, while Nokia was previously tasked in upgrading 2G base stations to 3G. The impact on current services could be severe, though it is also worth questioning whether any other vendors would be keen to work with the telco for 4G or 5G should the reports prove to be accurate.

This is where the state-owned telco could feel the worst of the pain. It might just be hanging on nowadays, but if it is unable to secure funds or favourable contracts with vendors to continue network evolution, the pain of tomorrow might make today look like a cake walk.

It is also worth adding context to the situation with Nokia’s current performance. After years of losing out to Huawei in the 4G era, then years of drought as telcos prepared themselves for the 5G revolution, Nokia needs some commercial and financial wins. Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri has been keeping investors at bay with the promise of riches in the 5G era, though these fortunes will have to materialise sooner rather than later.

Nokia has been boasting it has secured commercial contracts with various telcos around the world, T-Mobile US being one of the more prominent, but it doesn’t matter how many contracts it has if it is not shipping product. The team has been quiet on the topic of how many base stations it has been shipping quarter-on-quarter, while there have also been reports of the vendor being unable to fulfil current commitments.

To pile on the pressure, the most recent earnings call was not what some would have wanted. Reporting a 2% boost in total revenues and an increase in operating losses slightly contradicts the fortunes of rivals. Ericsson recently reported a 10% increase in revenues for the latest quarter, while Huawei’s half-year revenues were up 23% in comparison to 2018.

Nokia is a company which is under pressure, which might well be contributing to the growing frustration with BSNL. To be fair to the vendor should reports prove to be true, there is little else it can do. If BSNL is unable, or refusing, to pay, it cannot offer its full range of services. It might not seem the most sympathetic to fans of the struggling state-owned telco, but Nokia will have few other options in such a scenario.

China reportedly warns India not to ban Huawei from 5G

China has told India not to exclude Huawei from its upcoming 5G trials, or Indian businesses will face retaliations, Reuters reports.

Quoting its “sources privy to internal discussions in New Delhi”, the news agency Reuters reported that the warning shots of “reverse sanctions”, should India ban Huawei from its 5G business under pressure from the US, were fired when the Indian Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry.

India will start trialling 5G in the coming months but has not selected the vendors yet. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the telecom minister, told the parliament earlier that Huawei was one of the vendors that have submitted proposals, though he did not name the others.

“On the issue of Chinese enterprises participating in the construction of India’s 5G, we hope the Indian side makes an independent and objective decision, and provides a fair, just and non-discriminatory commercial environment for Chinese enterprises’ investment and operations, to realize mutual benefit,” said the spokesperson of China’s foreign ministry in a statement sent to Reuters. “Huawei has carried out operations in India for a long time and has made contributions to the development of Indian society and the economy that is clear to all.”

Like all obscure diplomatic parlance, the statement said less than what is left unsaid. However, the stress on “independent” is a clear message that India should calculate its own gains and losses when making the decision, independent of US pressure.

When it comes to security, the parliamentary committee tasked to evaluate the vendors has not found evidence to suggest that Huawei has comprised the security in its current business in India, according to Reuters’ sources.

Similar to the difficult choice the post-Brexit UK has to make, siding with the US or siding with China, when it comes to how to deal with Huawei, India is also caught in the cross fire of the trade war, and its situation is arguably trickier. The US is India’s most important trade partner and the country the Modi government (which has just won the general election with an enlarged majority) desperately would love to be on good terms with.

China, on the other hand, closer to home but is a much smaller trading partner, though a few of India’s leading companies (Tata, Infosys, etc.) do have a limited presence. Meanwhile, the world’s two most populous countries share a long border and do not always see eye to eye. In 2017 there was a two-month long army standoff in a disputed area between the two countries.

While our expert suggested that a way out for the UK could be a government mandated multi-vendor policy, a similar idea was devised by the Indian National Security Advisory Board (NSAB). But instead of asking the telcos to deploy equipment from more than one vendor, the NSAB experts suggested that, if the telcos choose to use Huawei hardware, then the software “to drive equipment” should be Indian-made. This may look reasonable on paper, but since 5G is so heavily software reliant, it is hard to predict how the demarcation will be drawn.

Reliance Jio becomes India’s number one mobile operator

Less than three years after launching Reliance Jio has overtaken Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel to become India’s biggest MNO by subscriber.

Jio announced it had hit 331 subscribers last week as part of its quarterly numbers announcement but, according to Ovum’s WCIS, that would still have left it just behind the recently combined Vodafone Idea group if the latter had even held onto its existing punters. Jio overtook long time Indian market leader Bharti Airtel in the first quarter of this year.

Vodafone Idea announced its own numbers late last week and they revealed that it continues to haemorrhage subscribers. “Our subscriber base declined to 320.0 million from 334.1 million in Q4FY19 primarily due to customer churn following the introduction of ‘service validity vouchers’ in the prior quarters,” opened the ‘operational highlights’ section of the report.

“We are delivering on our stated strategy although the benefits are not yet visible in our top line,” said Vodafone Idea CEO Balesh Sharma. “We remain focused on expanding our 4G coverage to over a billion Indians as well as expanding our data capacities by adding more sites on TDD and deploying Massive MIMO. We are well on track to deliver our synergy targets by Q1FY21. We expect these factors to increasingly contribute to our financial performance going forward.”

Returning to the WCIS numbers, the total number of mobile subscribers hasn’t increased that much in the three years that Jio has been operating, which means the third of a billion customers it now has have been largely taken from the incumbents. There has been a fair bit of consolidation, so it’s hard to make like-for-like comparisons, but it looks like Jio largely took subscribers from the smaller players initially, but in the past year has been hoovering up tens of millions of subscribers from its two big rivals.

Competition is obviously a good thing but if this trend continues Jio could become dangerously dominant in India and the country’s regulators and politicians may live to regret making it so easy for the country’s richest person to get off to such a flying start. The genie is out of the bottle now, though, and it’s hard to see how Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel are going to regain the initiative.

Netflix India looks for growth in mobile-only subscriptions

Netflix has announced it will launch a mobile-only version of its service in an effort to gain traction in one of the worlds’ fastest growing digital economies.

With the international markets looking like the most promising growth opportunities for Netflix in the future, the team will have to adapt the service to context. India is a market which has promised a lot over the last couple of decades, but it is only in recent years the hype could be realised.

For INR 199 per month (roughly $2.80) subscribers will be able to sign-up to mobile-only access to the entire Netflix content library. There might be a few conditions which will frustrate some demanding consumers, but this is a very intelligent move which could prove to be a new means of engagement around the world.

“Our members in India watch more on their mobiles than members anywhere else in the world and they love to download our shows and films,” said Ajay Arora, Director of Product Innovation at Netflix. “We believe this new plan will make Netflix even more accessible and better suit people who like to watch on their smartphones and tablets – both on the go and at home.”

Looking at context, India is a country which is going through a delayed digital revolution. It might have been hyped as the holy grail for digital companies in the past, but it is only since the introduction of Reliance Jio two years ago that the digital revolution gained traction. Jio severely undercut rivals on price, democratising the consumption of data for the masses. Adoption of digital has been rapid and is sustaining the gains.

According to the Ericsson Mobility Report released last month, Indians consume more data than any other nation. Data usage per smartphone at an average of 9.8 GB per month, which is expected to almost double to 18 GB by 2024. The introduction of Jio and its disruptive data tariffs are pinned down as the catalyst, with the telco forcing rivals to drastically alter their offerings to consumers.

From an entertainment perspective, Netflix has pointed to a FICCI-EY 2019 report which suggest Indian consumers spend 30% of their phone time, and 70% of data allocations on entertainment. This is a trend worth paying attention to and it might come as a surprise few have capitalised on it to date, aside from Jio of course.

There are a few conditions to be aware of however. For INR 199, resolution will be limited to SD 480 pixels, only 100 titles will be downloadable to start with and Netflix will prevent any casting to TVs. This will frustrate a few consumers, but the price is a reasonable trade-off for such limitations.

In terms of the potential, this is a very good strategy from Netflix, which has had to explore new initiatives to gain traction outside of its domestic market. The international markets represent the greatest opportunity for growth in the future, the US currently accounts for roughly 48% of current revenues, though it will have to appreciate a cookie cutter approach to expansion will not sustain the growth investors are seeking. These investors are already a bit irked with recent figures, share price has declined 15% since the financial results last week, though this should provide fuel for optimism.

The Netflix team has suggested it has no plans to introduce such an offer to other markets just yet, though success might change this. Although we see Netflix subscriptions as on the cheap side in the developed markets, the same perception will not exist everywhere. This could certainly be an option to double-down on growth in developing markets around the world.

Jio surges forward with subs and profits

Reliance Jio has unveiled its latest quarterly figures and, surprise surprise, subs are once again on the up as well as profits.

Monthly ARPU might have be on the decline, down to $1.77, a trend which is not showing signs of slowing, but scale seems to be the answer for Jio. The firm now has a subscriber base of 331 million, adding 24.5 million over the last three months and 116 million during the last year.

“Growth in Jio mobility services has continued to surpass all expectations,” said Mukesh Ambani, MD of Reliance Industries, Jio’s parent company.

“In less than two years of commercial operations, Jio network carried almost 11 Exabytes of data traffic during the recently concluded fiscal quarter. Jio management is focused on giving unmatched digital experience at most affordable price to every citizen of the country, and accordingly expanding the network capacity and coverage to keep pace with demand.”

The progress which has been made by the firm over the course of the last two years is remarkable and perhaps demonstrates how under-developed the Indian market actually was. Although India has been seen as a growth economy, part of the now old-fashioned BRICs group, it wasn’t until Jio shook up the market the digital revolution took hold.

Average consumption of data is now up to 11.4 GB a month, with Jio suggesting customers used 10 exabytes over its network during the quarter. The Indian consumer certainly has an appetite for data and they don’t seem to be satisfied whatsoever.

Looking at the financials, these are also very promising. Early criticism of Jio was that it was negatively impacting competition in the market as there was little profit being made by the firm. This is generally seen as a negative, as running loss leaders to kill off competition very rarely works for the greater good in the long-term, though the numbers speak for themselves.

Quarterly revenues increased 44% year-on-year, while the firm collected profits of $119 million, a 45% year-on-year boost. These numbers are attractive for the moment, but profitability currently looks to be reliant on scale and subscriber growth. Sooner or later, this growth will slow, and the team will have to look at the worrying rate at which ARPU is declining.

Period Q1 2019 Q3 2018 Q1 2018
ARPU (Indian Rupee) 122 130 154

Indian companies to be punished for Huawei business

India is the latest country to be dragged into the US/China conflict as the threat of punishment is directed towards any companies who work with Huawei.

According to the Economic Times, any company found to be supplying components or products to Huawei, or any affiliated company on the US Entity List, could face regulatory penalties. Although the White House has focused on crippling Huawei through placing limitations on US companies, it seems the US Government feels it needs to spread its wings further.

“Any Indian company which will act as a supplier of US-origin equipment, software, technology to Huawei and its affiliates in entity list could be subject to penal action/sanction under US regulations,” said Telecoms and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in Parliament this week.

Although Huawei’s entry onto the Entity List, a list of companies which US firms are banned from working with, has had a notable impact on the Chinese firm’s business, it seems the consequences have not gone far enough. Huawei has suggested smartphone shipments will certainly take a hit, but the company is still functional, seemingly much to the distaste of US officials.

Last year, the US dropped an economic dirty-bomb on ZTE and it almost destroyed the firm. ZTE’s supply chain was unhealthily concentrated in the US leading to the distress, though as Huawei’s supply chain is much more diversified, the same action has not brought the same result.

Perhaps this is another step to add further distress to Huawei. If the US Government places restrictions on the companies who supply Huawei, irrelevant to their nationality, it might have a better chance of hurting the Chinese vendor.

That said, the impact on Huawei might just be a pleasant by-product of a dispute between the US and India. Like China, Mexico and Canada, India has got its own tensions with the US this time concerning data localisation.

Last month, rumours emerged that India would be the latest target of the US. India currently has laws in place which force foreign companies to store data on Indian consumers and businesses within the borders. There are other countries who have similar laws, but the US does seem to have some leverage over India.

H-1B work visas allow an individual to enter the US to temporarily work at an employer in a specialty occupation. Although there are no official quotas, it is believed Indian citizens account for as much as 70% of the H-1B work visas which are handed out each year. If localisation rules are not relaxed, the US has threatened to curb the flow of visas into India.

What will interesting to see is whether this is a strategy which is rolled out globally for the US Government. If it holds all of Huawei’s suppliers who use US components, products or IP in their products to account, there will be a varied list. This might be a strategy to further cause distress to Huawei, though we suspect it could also be used as a bargaining chip in the larger trade discussions.