Even though the worldwide wearables market is expected to nearly double by 2021 and India’s consumers bought another 2.7 million units last year, the subcontinent’s gadget buyers are showing signs of fatigue. They’re no longer rushing out to buy wearables at the same torrid pace as in year’s past. And making matters worse is the fact that new brands are jumping into an increasingly crowded field of competitors.
Seemingly undaunted by the headwinds, Fitbit is aiming to capture a greater share of the wearables category in India. And it intends to do this by providing consumers there with an expanded lineup of fitness trackers and smartwatches.
In particular, Fitbit sees a great deal of untapped potential for smartwatches that take advantage of its relative strengths in health and fitness tracking even though that category still has yet to gain much traction among India’s consumers. Market research firm IDC said sales of smartwatches still only made up about 10% of the total market for wearable devices last year. IDC classifies smart wearables as those that can run third-party apps, like Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa, versus basic wearables which cannot run the same apps, such as Xiaomi’s Mi Band and Fitbit Alta.
With the latest version of the Fitbit OS, for example, the device maker offers several unique benefits like female health tracking to help women track their menstrual cycle and estimated fertile window, on-screen workouts and smart features like quick replies and on-device music… all with over four days of battery life.
The Indian Market
In India, basic wearables account for over 85 percent of the total number of shipments. “In addition to the low entry price of basic wearables, consumers are now getting better value from these devices as the category now offers advanced features,” said Celso Gomes, associate market analyst – client devices, IDC India. “Features such as heart rate, sleep monitor and among others are soon becoming the must-have features in basic wearables, even in entry-level (less than $50) segments.”
In the affordable segment, GOQii is the overall leader in the Indian wearable market, according to data from IDC. The company has focused on building a unique wellness proposition with personalized coaching, lifestyle doctor, and health locker available as a subscription. Xiaomi has also found considerable success with its popular fitness trackers, like the Mi Band which appeals to the mainstream because of it affordable prices and the brand’s popularity.
Other smartphone makers like Honor and Lenovo, too, are looking to emulate Xiaomi’s efforts with wearables targeting the Indian market. Lenovo recently launched two fitness bands–the HX03 Cardio and HX03F Spectra–in India.
“The India market, which is approximately 2 million units in 2017, is expected to reach 3 million units in 2018,” said Sebastian Peng, Head of Lenovo MBG Ecosystem. “We have great expectations for the Indian market where the share of wearable devices is projected to gain significantly in the coming years.”
Fitbit in India
Fitbit came to India in 2015, and in the three years since, the company has built a robust sales and distribution network through both online and offline channels. Fitbit’s wearables are available on the web through both Amazon and Flipkart as well as major large-format retailers like Reliance Digital, Croma, Helios and others. According to the company, Fitbit’s devices are sold in more than 1,000 stores in 100 cities across India.
According to Navkendar Singh, associate research director, devices: India and South Asia, IDC India, the company’s focus on fitness and health, which is seen as their areas of expertise, has helped Fitbit to build a strong brand in the fitness wearables category. It has a wide range of fitness trackers at various price points which allow users to pick one as per requirement and design taste.
“Fitbit has been rather slow in seeing the demand for smartwatches, where Apple has been dominant lately,” said Singh. “But the strength of Fitbit Ionic and Versa, apart from the price, is the battery life of around five days, which remains a challenge for the smartwatch category.”
According to Steve Morley, Fitbit’s vice president and general manager for APAC, the company dismisses the limited playing ground for premium smartwatches in India. He accepts the small market share of Fitbit, but points out that India is a large and growing market, especially for smartwatches, and the mindshare that the brand has captured in the space is an encouraging sign for the company.
Fitbit is one of the pioneers of connected wearables, and Morley feels that while the company has driven the growing trend towards personal fitness and health in India, the onus of growing the market is on the company as well.
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