Does Apple’s presence and the subsequent marketing strategy make any sense in India?


Few months ago, when Apple CEO Tim Cook was in India, he stressed that Apple is betting big on India and is preparing for the day when India would become the next China of the smartphone revolution. He said that India is at same juncture in telecom revolution where China was some 7 to 10 years ago.

Yes, India is going to be the next big thing in telecom after America and China. It has already replaced America as the market having second largest smartphone user base. And since it has immense untapped potential, it is going to be the darling of whole world, including companies from America and China – either for hardware or software.

India’s smartphone user base is at 220 million while the number of mobile subscriptions in the country has reached to 1.1 billion is expected to scale up to 1.4 billion by 2021. Going by the base 220 million smartphone users, the smartphone penetration in India is still at 20% of the overall mobile phone subscription.

So, that is huge..huge opportunity.

Smartphone shipments to India grew at over 20% the last year. This year, India is expected to buy around 150 million smartphones. According to some estimates, the smartphone bases is projected to cross 700 million mark by 2020. It may be even faster than that as technological advancements are on the verge of making Indian telecom a data driven market. Smartphone prices are rapidly coming down, especially of 4G and LTE enabled devices. And as the Indian government is betting big on smartphones to drive its digital governance plan, it is just waiting to happen.

Now if Tim Cook sees India market where Chinese telecom sector was some 7 to 10 years ago, that would be, but India may bridge this gap much sooner than he would have calculated. It may be by 2019 or 2020.

Since Apple went on to increase falling prices of its iphone 6, 6S and 5S to further beef up its luxury brand perception and has launched iPhone 7 at the same price points, from Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 92,000, it seems Apple and Tim Cook have miscalculated the time when India would be finally ready to take off, as was the case with China.

Indian smartphone market has already taken off. Most of the new and replacement mobile phones are going to be smartphones as data prices have come crushingly low with the entry of a new operator, Reliance Jio, that has announced to charge only for data (and not for voice).

To continue..



We cannot take that something drove Tim Cook and he took an Indian sojourn just for that.

We cannot say but he is certainly not in the kind of circumstances (and his Indian itinerary suggests this as well), that he would be forced (by his inner call) to look for spiritual solace of Orientalism – like his company’s defining soul, Steve Jobs, had done.

We also cannot say, again based on his entourage, his itinerary and his engagements that he was here, in this country, for a planned or random tourism trip.

But then, how can we take on the face value, the implicit and explicit contours of his long India visit, spread over four days – for the specific purpose of promoting Apple’s business interests in India – given the facts that the sum total of the purpose of his visit was restricted to emphasizing on those very measures which have pushed Apple to the periphery of India’s tech market – including the blockbuster segment of smartphones?

If Apple has just around 2 per cent market segment in India’s smartphone market, projected to be second largest soon (globally), it is Apple’s own doing – with a blind race to establish iPhone as a super-premium model.

And the way Apple decided to do it – was reflective of how it treated India.

First, it would create a false impression of exclusivity by keeping a large market like India in the last rounds of iPhone launch.

Then, it would price iPhone astronomically high, making it, again, an exclusive possession of the very few, even if it was available on lower price points in other markets.

And above all, it tried to dump its old models in India – as if Indians were not able to afford its latest launches. It always sent the message that Apple considered India a market only for its obsolete models – or a market for refurbished iPhones.

When every other company, including Samsung and the Chinese vendors, see India as a market with immense potential and make it a point to announce global launches simultaneously in India. They even launch specific models for the Indian market.

By the time Apple realized where it erred, it had become too late. This long visit by Tim Cook, after the first ever dip in iPhone sales, shows that. Because it came too late.

Or Apple has really realized where it erred?

It doesn’t seem so.

Especially after the indications that we are getting after Tim Cook’s high-flying socializing and strategising stopovers in India.

Reports say the main focus of Tim Cook’s India visit was convincing the Indian government about its refurbished iPhone business and setting up Apple stores without the mandatory 30 per cent local sourcing clause.

These are again shabby and ‘poor in taste’ elements and emphasize Apple’s superiority complex (if I take the liberty to use the term) – the very elements that have pushed Apple to a marketing oblivion in India.

And, if this was really the intent of Tim Cook’s India vision, then it was so poorly thought. While others companies tried to own the Indian market in order to win it, the basic of any marketing strategy, Apple disowned the Indian customer – as if he never figured in the their scheme of things.

But if it was not so – then the million dollar question is – why Tim Cook made this India visit?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –