Realme XTSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj/Android Central

If there's one standout in India's budget category this year, it is Realme. The BBK-owned brand burst onto the scene back in May 2018, at a time when Xiaomi was dominant in India. Xiaomi sold 10 million phones back in Q2 2018, registering a market share of 29.7% and carving out a healthy lead over Samsung, which sat in second place at 23.9%.

Fast forward 18 months, and Realme is now the fourth-largest manufacturer in the country. The latest IDC figures for Q3 2019 highlights the brand's dominance in India's budget segment: Realme recorded a staggering 400% year-on-year growth, managing to rack up 6.7 million sales during the quarter. The Chinese manufacturer now has a market share of 14.3% and is likely to overtake sister brand Vivo (15.2%) later this year.

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IDC Q3 2019 figures for IndiaSource: IDC

Realme's meteoric rise in India mirrors Xiaomi's own growth trajectory from three years ago, and that's not a coincidence. Both brands ply their trade in India's budget segment and target value-conscious buyers. The launch strategy and positioning are so similar between the two brands that it's easy to confuse the two at times. Heck, even the name Realme is a play on Xiaomi's Mi branding, and it's almost as if someone at BBK wanted to emulate Xiaomi's success in India by effectively stealing its playbook.

With OPPO, Vivo, and Realme, BBK now controls 31.3% of India's handset market, pulling ahead of Xiaomi.

The strategy has paid off handsomely for BBK, as Realme is now the only viable alternative to Xiaomi in the budget space. Furthermore, Realme's meteoric rise means that BBK-owned brands now account for 31.3% of India's handset market, putting the Chinese conglomerate ahead of Xiaomi.

OPPO and Vivo managed to maintain their position as India's top-five handset manufacturers over the years, and while both brands launched budget-focused models, they weren't able to target Xiaomi in any meaningful way. That's why the launch of Realme was such a pivotal move for BBK in India. It directly goes up against Xiaomi in the $100 to $300 segment, and with an overwhelming majority of sales still in the budget category, there's a larger addressable userbase.

By leveraging BBK's scale, Realme is able to deliver the same value that made Xiaomi so dominant in India. Realme's phones are built at OPPO factories, and it also uses OPPO's ColorOS skin on its phones. By focusing on the online market like Xiaomi and utilizing the production line of a bigger brand, Realme has been able to maintain a low overhead, allowing the brand to pass on the savings to customers.

Ultimately, Realme's success is down to its portfolio: its phones outmatched Xiaomi this year.

Realme also managed to record significant wins against Xiaomi this year, with the Realme 3 Pro edging out the Redmi Note 7 Pro and the Realme XT offering better value than the Redmi Note 8 Pro. Both devices debuted for less than their Xiaomi counterparts and had better features. Xiaomi didn't do itself any favors by rolling out ads in MIUI last year, which led users to find an alternative. Realme, for its part, played its cards just right, both when it comes to launching products and pricing them aggressively.

Realme is also setting its sights on global markets, with the likes of the X2 Pro debuting in Spain last month. The X2 Pro is slated to make its debut in India later this month and could allow the brand to build further momentum as it sets its sights on Samsung. Realme has also committed to launching a 5G-enabled device and roll out a cleaner software skin that's more in line with pure Android.

For now, Xiaomi is still the number one phone manufacturer in India, but Realme has a real chance of catching up to — or even overtaking — Samsung in a few quarters. And at that point, it will only have Xiaomi to go up against, and that should make things very interesting in 2020.

India's best mid-ranger

Realme XT

So many features at an incredible price.

With a 64MP camera backed by the Snapdragon 712 chipset and a 4000mAh battery, the Realme XT is the mid-range phone to buy in India right now.

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