Airtel & Karbonn launch affordable smartphones for aspiring India

MUMBAI: In order to strengthen its presence in the ongoing telecom battle, Bharti Airtel will launch two new Android-powered 4G smartphones in partnership with Karbonn Mobiles.

Airtel has also tied-up with Amazon to sell the handsets online. One handset, the A40 Indian, has become available on Amazon from 16 November, A1 Indian and A41 Power will be available on the platform starting next week.

Telco-handset tie-up is a common practice in the West but the phenomenon has hit the Indian market only this year. For telecom companies, such strategic tie-ups with India handset makers may help them take on Reliance Jio. By August 2017, Jio claimed to have 133 million subscribers. At September end, Bharti Airtel has over 282 million subscribers while Vodafone and Idea had 207 million and 190 million subscribers respectively.

Domestic handset maker Micromax, on Wednesday, said it was tying up with Vodafone India to offer a smartphone at Rs 999 if the buyer retains the device for three years. Karbonn had formed a similar partnership with Bharti Airtel for its previous smart feature phone A40, priced at Rs 1399 when Reliance Jio launched a smart feature phone at a starting price of Rs 1500.

Data from Counterpoint Research show that both Micromax and Karbonn have lost market share in the handset category over the past six quarters while Chinese firms Intel and Xiaomi have climbed the charts. The market share of Micromax and Karbonn in India fell to 7.1 per cent and 3.2 per cent respectively, in the April-June quarter this year from 10.2 per cent and 6 per cent in July-September the previous year.

The launch is part of Airtel's 'Mera Pehla Smartphone' initiative, which is aimed at enabling every Indian to buy a 4G smartphone and get on the digital superhighway. The handsets come bundled with a monthly pack of Rs 169 from Airtel.

The A1 Indian 4G smartphone will be available at Rs 1799 which otherwise would cost Rs 4390 and the A41 Power at Rs 1849 with an MRP of Rs 4290. The 4G smartphones, which are Google certified, run on the latest Android 7.0 Nougat OS and offer full access to all apps on Google Play Store, including YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp. In addition, both smartphones come preloaded with MyAirtel App, Airtel TV and Wynk Music.

Bharti Airtel director of consumer business and CMO Raj Pudipeddi said, "We are delighted to deepen our partnership with Karbonn to fulfil the smartphone aspirations of India. We saw very strong demand for our first offer under the 'Mera Pehla Smartphone' initiative, which validates the broad appeal of this innovative proposition.?

Karbonn Mobiles MD Pardeep Jain added, "The immense response we got for our offer with Airtel helped us add 70 per cent new feature phone users to our existing portfolio. We feel that this partnership will be even more fruitful as it brings more competitively priced 4G smartphones to the market, especially with Amazon India on board.?

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