Focus on fitness spurs Indians to smartwatches

Smartwatches have found a new appeal.

Driven by a pandemic-induced shift in consumer awareness about health and fitness, smartwatches are seeing tremendous growth in India. Shipments surged fourfold to a record in the July-September quarter.

“The third quarter of 2021 was the biggest quarter for smartwatches,” said Anshika Jain, Senior Research Analyst at Counterpoint. “We have seen that because of COVID-19, there has been a change in customer preferences. People are shifting to smartwatches from traditional watches. They are looking for health-related features such as tracking steps, SPO2 level, heart rate or their sleep pattern on an ongoing basis… this is a triggering factor,” she added.

While the overall wearables market in India, which includes earwear, watches and wristbands, was 23.8 million units in the third quarter, watches continued to be the fastest-growing category with 4.3 million shipments during the period. Wristbands, which offer a lower-level of functionality, saw a seventh consecutive quarter of annual decline, according to data released by IDC. The demand for smartwatches extends beyond youngsters, as many health features appeal to the older generations as well, Ms. Jain observed.

Madhav Sheth, CEO, realme India, and president, realme International Business Group, pointed out that while fitness trackers and smartwatches had earlier been popular only among fitness or tech enthusiasts, these products had become a ‘necessity’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amit Khatri, co-founder of Noise, said while the pandemic helped accelerate the momentum and adoption by consumers, wrist wearables had, however, transitioned into a lifestyle product.

“Another big factor pushing demand for smartwatches is the increase in productivity,” Mr. Khatri said. “Users have access to a lot of apps on the watch itself, they can read messages on it, they don’t need to take out the phone to take a call… if they are driving, they can see who is calling.”

Indian brands dominate

The smartwatch segment is currently dominated by Indian brands, which had cornered almost 75% of the Indian smartwatch market in the last quarter, compared with 38% in the year-earlier period.

Ms. Jain further pointed out that the entry price had gone down significantly from about ₹8,400 last year to about ₹5,400 now, which was helping onboard first time buyers.

She added that brands were currently distinguishing themselves in terms of look and feel of the product rather than the specifications. However, going forward the differentiation would have to be how accurately features such as measuring blood pressure, SPO2, thermal sensors, etc. perform, along with a smooth user interface.

Mr. Khatri added that the growth that this segment was seeing was “very much sustainable”. “We are right now at 4-5% penetration of mobile phones. I feel capturing 15-20% of the smartphone market is a decent number to aim for so there is enough headroom for brands to grow.”

Echoing a similar view, Mr. Sheth said, “In the coming years, we believe that the demand will further increase as smartwatches can connect with one’s smartphone/laptop/earbuds etc., offering a connected and convenient lifestyle.”

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