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Meet iBall: the tablet maker crushing Samsung in India

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Indian budget consumer electronics firm iBall raised eyebrows this week on a report that it has stolen South Korean juggernaut Samsung's crown as India's number one tablet vendor.

Mumbai-based iBall claimed a 15.6 percent share of India's tablet market in the fourth quarter of 2014, up from 4.5 percent a year earlier, as Samsung's share shrank to 12.9 percent from 17.9 percent, according to IDC.

"iBall rapidly climbed up its way to the number 1 spot [last] quarter. Its growth is backed by low cost products targeted at consumers looking to own entry level form factors. The brand is actively engaged in expanding its retail presence as well as geographical reach," said IDC.

Budget allure

iBall launched in 2001 with just one product category – the mouse. It ventured into the mobile phone business in 2010 and made its foray into tablet space a year later with the iBall Slide. In a price sensitive market, iBall products are attractive.

"Local tablet vendors are posing stiff competition to Samsung at retail counters," IDC added.

As with smartphones, the tablet market is becoming increasingly commoditized, enabling low-cost manufactures to produce compelling devices at competitive costs.

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"Samsung spends so much on marketing that they can't reduce costs as much," said Neil Shah, research director for Counterpoint Research.

iBall has done particularly well in targeting corporates and educational instructions, said Shah, a segment of the market Samsung hasn't been able to crack due to its higher prices.

Samsung tabletshave a starting price of around $150 in India - more than doublethatof iBall tablets.

A juggernaut beset

If it's any consolation for Samsung, tablets do not make up a significant portion of its revenues.

In the fourth quarter of 2014, tablets accounted for just 10 percent of revenues in its mobile division, according to Counterpoint. Handsets, by comparison, accounted for 80 percent.

Nevertheless, iBall's dethroning of Samsung is the latest in the string of defeats faced by the South Korean company.

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In the same quarter, Indian budget smartphone maker Micromax overtook Samsung as the leading supplier in India's smartphone market, according to research firm Canalys.

In its report published earlier this month, Canalys said Micromax accounted for 22 percent of smartphone sales in India in the October-December quarter, ahead of Samsung's 20 percent.

"Samsung is being crushed by everyone in smartphone segment," Shah said. "Their focus now has shifted to protecting market share there as they realize tablets are no longer a growth market."