How Instagram is increasingly shaping the fate of smartphones in India

When actor Priya Prakash Varrier started a social media storm with an on-screen wink in February, her follower count on Instagram jumped by 600,000 — making it the third largest gain in a single day globally. The frenzy resulted in massive gains for others too. OnePlus, the country’s top premium smartphone firm, was one of the first consumer goods players to leverage the actor’s influence by approaching her to advertise their products on Instagram. And, the firm saw its follower count cross the 1-million mark from 600,000 within days. 

India is the largest market for Instagram (with 70 million active users) after the US (120 million), according to market research and business intelligence portal Statista. 

Its user base jumped by 84 per cent in the past one year and currently houses equal to 31 per cent of Facebook India’s user base. It reached one billion users globally in 2018 from 800 million last year.

From product promotion to consumer connect, handset makers are increasingly relying on the photo-sharing app from Facebook’s stable. Be it Samsung, Vivo, Apple or OnePlus, Instagram is changing the way the phone makers conceptualise and design their products. 

Take the case of Samsung, for example. The Korean electronics giant, which ruled the local market for years, identifies behaviour and needs of Instagram users as a crucial driver for its innovations in camera and imaging features. Recently, it came up with a smartphone with three rear cameras — for wide angle, portrait and low-light photography. It also brought in cutting edge photo editing and virtual personality driven applications to attract young consumers, 40 per cent of whom never upload unedited pictures.

Mohandeep Singh, senior vice-president, mobile business, Samsung India, said Instagram will increasingly influence the way smartphones are developed. According to Vikas Agarwal, General Manager of OnePlus, Instagram is capable of deeply engaging with its users like no other social media platform. “The habit of photo sharing is a key driver here. The kind of audience it has — youngsters, professional photographers and celebrities — makes it one of the most important platform.”

OnePlus, the current leader in above Rs 30,000 price segment, is investing heavily to optimise its cameras and software, apart from coming up with innovative functions like ultra-slow motion videos that can be edited and uploaded instantly. Currently, the brand enjoys active support of over 2 million or some 3 per cent of all Instagram users in the country. “Women engage more actively on Instagram, compared to popular platforms like Facebook, which has opened up new market avenues,” said Agarwal.

“Instagram is definitely one of the ubiquitous platforms amongst the digital natives. In addition to sharing pictures, we have been witnessing a significant rise in Instagram stories, which are a more fun and secure way of expressing themselves. Also, with the rise of brand influencers in the country, it is fast becoming a potent platform to promote brands,” said Nipun Marya, director, brand strategy, Vivo India.

While Vivo is betting on augmented reality to stay ahead, Google is putting its money on artificially intelligence modules and synchronised software.

 
Instagram’s appeal to the younger generations, especially the Gen Z (18-21 years) and young millennials (22-28 years), remains high. A recent survey revealed that while over 70 per cent of young millennials are active on the platform, for Gen Z it’s over 80 per cent — more than Facebook. According to marketers, it is the active participation by the younger consumers that helps drive frequent repeat purchases, is placing Instagram at the top of the priority list for smartphone makers.


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