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India’s Lava looks to corner a third of feature phone market

A worker holds a Lava mobile handset at its manufacturing plant, in Noida, India, October 23, 2018. Picture taken October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/File Photo

A top executive of Indian mobile phone company Lava said it will deploy 4G feature phones to capture a third of the entry-level device market within a year and gradually enhance its affordable smartphones.

Lava, founded in 2009, is known for its inexpensive phones with keypads but no high-end capabilities.

According to Lava International president and business head Sunil Raina, the company will deploy 4G feature phones to increase its market share to 35% within a year from 26%.

Interviewed by Reuters, he said the company hopes to “come to a very dominant position” in this market.

Counterpoint believes that Lava controls less than 1% of the world’s second-largest smartphone market, with 650 million handsets.

Despite India’s increased smartphone use, Counterpoint believes 290 million people still use feature phones.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s telecom unit launched a device that accepts digital payments.

Lava will also increase its affordable smartphones. Raina said that in two years, it wants to exceed 10% of the market for cellphones under 30,000 rupees ($360), up from 1% to 2% presently.

He stated that all the company’s handsets will support 5G by next year.

“We believe we can be quite a significant player in this (budget) segment,” Raina said, adding that phones under 30,000 rupees ($360) would still make up over 40% of India’s $72 billion smartphone market by 2028.
“We’re building our capabilities step by step… We want to go above 30K”.

Lava’s inexpensive strategy contrasts with Samsung (005930. KS) and Xiaomi (1810. HK), offering luxury smartphones as Indians upgrade their gadgets.

In recent years, Lava relocated all design and manufacture to India from China.

Raina said Lava is considering an IPO as it grows its smartphone business after delaying one in 2021.

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