Micromax overtakes Samsung in India
A worker displays a Micromax mobile phone inside a store in Kolkata December 4, 2013.Reuters

The poor performance of Samsung's mobile phone business continues as it has been overtaken as the biggest smartphone maker in India by local company Micromax.

Samsung's mobile division has not been having a very good time of late. 2014 was annus horribilis for the company's mobile phone business, culminating in the news announced last week that the final quarter of the year had seen a 64% drop in profits from the beleaguered division.

This week the bad news has continued with the revelation that a senior executive in charge of marketing the company's up-coming Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone has abruptly left, and now new figures from research company Canalys reveal the South Korean giant has been usurped as the top smartphone brand in India.

The Canalys report says Micromax accounted for 22% of the smartphone sales in the three months to the end of 2014, overtaking Samsung who had a 20% share. In total, 21.6 million smartphones were sold in India in the three month period, which represents a huge 90% increase year-on-year.

India, along with China, Brazil and Russia, are seen as the most lucrative markets for smartphone manufacturers as developed countries like the UK and US reach saturation point.

Low-cost smartphones

Micromax, which is the tenth biggest smartphone maker in the world, overtook Samsung last year in overall sales of mobile phones in India, but toppling them in the lucrative and growing smartphone market will be seen as a major coup.

India is the third largest smartphone market in the world but unlike western countries where smartphones like the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 dominate sales, over 65% of smartphones sold in the sub-continent in the final quarter of 2014 cost less than $100 according to Canalys' figures.

Fellow Indian manufacturers Karbonn and Lava make up the top four smartphone sellers for the final quarter of 2014, but in recent months we have seen Chinese companies such as Xiaomi and OnePlus both launch their smartphones in the fast-growing market.

Samsung suffered a similar faith in China where local brand Xiaomi surpassed them in 2014 as the top smartphone brand in that market, reflecting a much more challenging landscape for the company which just 12 months ago was dominating the smartphone market.

The South Korean company is struggling to compete against flexible startups such as Micromax and Xiaomi while its sales at the high-end of the market are being decimated by Apple's iPhone as well as devices from the likes of Sony, LG and HTC.

Samsung will launch its flagship Galaxy S6 at a media event on 1 March in Barcelona just ahead of the Mobile World Congress trade show, but it will need to do something special to see a quick turnaround in its fortunes.