India's smart TV market gets a price flick; firms launching low-cost models

Representative image | Kodak 50-inch UHD Smart LED TV
A silent revolution is on in India’s smart television market, which threatens to upend the pecking order in one of the largest domestic durables categories.

Global majors such as Xiaomi, Thomson, and TCL have entered the domestic smart television market in the past two months with low-cost and feature-rich models.

This, in many ways, mirrors what happened in the domestic mobile phone market a few years ago, when affordable smartphones changed the market dynamics.

This market, which is less than half the estimated Rs 500-billion TV market in India, operates at a price point of Rs 30,000 and above (for a 32-inch TV).

But Xiaomi, Thomson, and TCL have launched 32-inch TV models at as low as Rs 14,000 per unit, which is a drop of more than 50 per cent over the market operating prices of similar-sized TVs pushed by incumbents such as Samsung, LG, and Sony. The result? The new entrants have virtually turned the market on its head, say experts tracking the market.

Similarly, the price of a 40-inch smart TV has plunged to nearly Rs 20,000 per unit, thanks to these new players, from nearly Rs 50,000 earlier, retail and trade sources say.

And easy finance has further brought 32-inch and 40-inch smart TVs within the reach of masses, according to them.

Samsung, LG, and Sony — the top three TV manufacturers in India — have much work to do and are now considering slashing prices of their 32- and 40-inch models.

Additionally, the new players are also stitching up multiple content deals with video-on-demand (VoD) operators such as Hotstar, Voot, Sony Liv, and Hungama.

While Samsung, LG, and Sony also have content deals with their smart TV models, the aggression demonstrated by the new entrants is far more, trade sources said. 

Some like Xiaomi, also the country’s largest smartphone player, is talking to biggies such as Netflix and Amazon Prime to beef up its content library, which runs into 500,000 hours, Manu Kumar Jain, global vice-president of Xiaomi and managing director of its India operations, said.

According to Harry Wu, general manager for TCL’s overseas business, the company’s newly launched smart TV brand iFFALCON (in India) is likely to outpace competition. 

“Mi (which is Xiaomi’s TV brand) has the backing of the firm’s software expertise and e-commerce platform. But it does not have the kind of hardware backing that we do. Plus, software expertise for us comes from Tencent, which is the largest software and content company in China,” Wu says.

TCL has tied up with YouTube, Netflix, Hotstar, ErosNow, and Reliance Jio for VoD content. While a tie-up with Google has ensured better consumer experience such as voice search, Jio will help it in pricing its models with cashback deals, Wu said. TCL is also talking to a local partner to set up a TV-manufacturing facility in India, aimed at bringing down price points further, Wu said.

Sebastian Crombez, who handles sales, marketing and trademark licensing at Technicolor, the owner of brand Thomson, is relying on its local partner Super Plastronics for manufacturing and marketing support. 

“We were the first company in the world to launch a smart TV way back in 2001. But then the market was not ready for this technology. Now that it is, we are pushing the pedal on aggression, especially in India, a large and growing market,” he said.

Sales of smart TVs in India grew more than 40 per cent each in the last two years, despite these products largely remaining out of bounds for price-sensitive consumers. Since prices are now falling, this market is expected to boom, sector experts said.

Also, the new players are counting on the online channel to push distribution. 

Sales on e-commerce platforms constitute 14 per cent of the overall TV market (by volume), projected to cross 20 per cent in next two years. Xiaomi is also leveraging its growing Mi Home stores and channel to push sales.

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