By Abhilash Panda
Akhilesh is an average 19-year-old boy in a small town in Rajasthan, who like any other youngster, apart from studying, likes to meet his friends, play online games and share notes on Tiger Shroff’s latest story or the Badshah hit that has caught the fancy of the nation. He and his friends share memes, watch back-to-back reels and have their own little party going. All this while using their smartphones paired with a set of earbuds.
One trip to the outskirts of any metro city in India and you will notice a strange phenomenon—youngsters sitting at market squares—or how we know them as “mandis” —excitedly comparing their days’ experiences with their friends with almost all of them wearing some or the other wearable device. Some would say smartphones have become affordable and a mainstay now, well beyond the metros. But to see the youth extend their love for tech to ‘wearables’ such as earbuds and smartwatches, sounds a bit too far-fetched isn’t it? Not really.
India’s mobile connectivity traces back to 1995. Twenty-six years later, with the Indian telecom sector being liberalised and multiple players emerging on the scene, no one had imagined we would come this far. Today, mobile phones have moved categories, from a ‘luxury gadget’ for someone to a ‘must-have’ device for the others, transcending user bases, cities and towns.
Cut to the present day, we see a similar revolution rising—the rise and rise of the wearables— which has the potential to go, if not bigger, but definitely equal to the mobile phone revolution. According to industry research firm IDC, India’s wearables market grew 118.2% year-on-year in the June 2021 quarter at 11.2 million units. Comparatively, the smartphone market saw a far slower growth and the growth has been stagnant to decreasing in the last few quarters. Wearables’ market is doubling every year, which means the installed base of wired earphones and traditional watches is huge, which in turn gives tech firms a large untapped base to work on upgrading that market.
Irrespective of the figures, the mobile phone market will remain the hub and wearables the spoke. The wearables were introduced not as a replacement for the mobile/smartphone but as its satellite extension. The usage of wearables varies from user group to user group and geo to geo but largely it has taken the world by storm and Indians have been equally mesmerised by the endless possibilities it offers. For the next five to seven years atleast, the wearables segment will grow exponentially, with consumers upgrading into smart wearables and tech brands providing innovation at every price-point. Indian consumers will be pampered with more and more brands providing smart tech choices as per use cases.
The proliferation of internet apart, a very big factor to facilitate the growth of this revolution is the entry of multiple players in this product category, with a healthy mix of global and Indian players vying for the consumers’ attention, rendering this category as one of the hottest in 2021, notwithstanding the effect of the pandemic. ‘Affordability’ and “options” are key for brands. While some of the brands are missing on these two factors, many have been immensely successful in gaining a significant portion of the market with competitive pricing, aggressive marketing, and faster adoption of new features.
So, will the wearables revolution supersede the mobile phone revolution? Well, that’s a resounding yes. Going by stats alone, in ten years from today it should not be surprising to see a headline in FE saying that the wearables market is now bigger than the smartphone market.
The writer is CEO at DIZO India, a fast-growing tech brand