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Samsung Pay Makes its Indian Debut

March 10, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

Samsung Pay arrives in India, beating several competitors to the punch, but walking into an entrenched market.

If the mobile payments war in India weren’t already up and running in earnest, it definitely is now. The major multinational operations are looking much more closely at India as a market, and one of the biggest firms has officially landed: Samsung Pay.

Samsung Pay didn’t make its way into the Indian market alone, but rather backed up by a series of cohorts including five major Indian banks—Standard Chartered, Axis, SBI, ICICI, and HDFC—as well as support from Mastercard and Visa. It’s even got some support from Paytm, which is bizarre given that Samsung Pay will end up in direct competition with Paytm going forward.

Given that Paytm actually has around 200 million mobile accounts of its own, it would be easy to think that Samsung’s walking right into a thoroughly denied battlefield here, with a competitor so entrenched that even considering breaking off a market would be a long shot.

However, Samsung isn’t hoping to steal much market away from Paytm, but is rather working collaboratively with the company to develop the market.

However, there may not be that many takers; given the Indian economy as a whole, finding customers willing to pay the costs of using Samsung Pay, or even Apple Pay, may be a challenge too great to overcome. Since Samsung Pay only works on the most recent devices like the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy A7 phone, that may be too great a leap for the Indian market for all but the wealthiest.

If Samsung can make a case for its devices and its mobile payment systems, then it might do well on this front. There’s a huge body of users that aren’t using mobile payment systems, however, and it’s a safe bet that these aren’t the kind of people that would buy a higher-tier smartphone.

Word from the World Bank put India’s per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) at around $1,600 back in 2015, so getting a lot of folks there to drop $400 on a smartphone like the A7 seems a shot too far.

Still, with Samsung clearly emphasizing partnership and collaboration, it may not need to move a lot of smartphones to get in the market. That’s good news for Samsung, because that’s a field it might not impact.