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Amid falling global sales, Fitbit looks to Flipkart to win in India market

Alnoor Peermohamed/Bengaluru 13 Mar 18 | 11:49 PM

To shore up the waning popularity of its products globally, Fitbit, the maker of wearable fitness trackers, is looking to tap the growing Indian market. For this, it has partnered with home-grown e-commerce giant Flipkart to sell its devices in the country.

The US-headquartered company, which had earlier made its devices available for online sale exclusively through Amazon India, has now expanded its reach to take on rivals Xiaomi and Apple. The move to partner with Flipkart comes after the company in 2016 snubbed the online seller by warning buyers that it was not one of its authorised retailers.

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Fitbit was instrumental in making fitness trackers popular globally, but its sales during 2017 fell to 15.3 million units from 22.3 million units a year earlier. The company is now renewing its focus on winning in India, where the market at present is dominated by Xiaomi at the low end and Apple in the high-end segments.

“Most of the market is still online because consumers for such products are very tech savvy. Fitbit has been relegated to more of a niche segment, with its market share being around six per cent in terms of sales and 10 per cent in terms of revenues in India," said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research.

Fitbit, however, disagrees and citing data from market analyst GfK says that it enjoys close to 60 per cent value share in health and fitness tracker market in India and more than 80 per cent value share for health and fitness trackers priced above $100 (approx Rs 6,500). It added that its products are available across over 1,000 stores in 100 cities, while its products are used by customers from over 500 cities.

According to Counterpoint, the estimated market for fitness trackers in India was around 2.7 million units during 2017, propping the industry to a little over $800 million. Of this, the bulk of sales was driven by Xiaomi’s low-cost Mi Band, which costs just Rs 1,200. The other big player in the market was GoQii, a popular fitness app that cross-sells wearables.

Other industry watchers said while Xiaomi sold 95 per cent of its Mi Band devices online, the industry average for online sales was around 75 per cent. However, for Fitbit, only 50 per cent of its sales comes from online channels in India. The company had partnered with Titan to sell its devices offline in the country.

To grow its presence in India, Fitbit is now looking to expand its reach online. Its devices are now officially available through Flipkart which gives it access to a lot more customers. Flipkart’s most recent claim for the size of its customer base is around 100 million, but the company does not give a break-down on how many of them are active on a monthly basis.

While Fitbit still does not list Flipkart as one of its authorised retailers on its website in India, a Flipkart spokesperson confirmed to Business Standard that the company’s products were available on its platform. No representative of Fitbit could be reached until the time of writing of this story.

Experts say Fitbit has become more of a niche player in India, similar to what is being seen globally. The hefty price tag of a Fitbit product can only be justified to power users, fitness enthusiasts and athletes. Others are largely content with devices such as Xiaomi’s Mi Band which offer similar features.

The premium end of the market has been captured by smartwatches, which, apart from tracking a user’s fitness, offer a host of other services like music playback, the ability to check text messages and even answer calls. Globally, Fitbit is looking to pivot itself into a digital fitness provider that charges subscriptions from customers rather than just selling them devices. 

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