Apple Plans Revamped India Strategy With Official Stores, Year-Long iPhone Deals, and Improved Apps

Apple's ongoing struggles in India have been scrutinized repeatedly over the past few years, and today a new report by Bloomberg has looked into Apple's plan to stay afloat in what's considered the world's "fastest-growing smartphone market."

In an effort to revamp the company's presence in India, Apple CEO Tim Cook is believed to be working behind-the-scenes to "remold Apple's failing India strategy," according to both current and former Apple employees. This plan was kicked off when Apple executive Michel Coulomb began overseeing the company's India strategy at the end of 2017.

indian flag and apple maps siri
According to the new report, this strategy includes better and longer-lasting retail deals with higher sales targets, the opening of official Apple retail stores in India, "overhauling" the company's relationship with independent retailers, and improving apps and services "aimed more closely at Indians." This last point particularly includes a "revamped" version of Apple Maps that is aimed to launch by 2020.

On the point of services, earlier this year Indian iPhone users discussed Apple's poor performance in this area and one user specifically called Apple Maps "a joke" in the country. While some services like Apple Music were favorably received, others like Siri were identified as low points for Indian customers, as the assistant "often struggles" with local accents and does not understand "many words of Indian origination."

For retail, the official Apple stores are said to open in 2019 and eventually include locations in New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai. While the Indian government's rules for foreign companies opening shops have previously prevented Apple from launching local stores, the company now builds some of its iPhone SE and iPhone 6s models in India, which is believed to help it meet India's rule requiring these companies to manufacture 30 percent of their products locally.

Because the government has made it tough for Apple to open its own retail stores in India, iPhone prices are less reliable than the company’s reputation for strict price controls would suggest. Indian wholesalers and online retailers often raise or lower their prices daily without giving a reason, leading shoppers to haggle or wait in hopes of a better deal, says Subhash Chandra, who runs a 510-store chain of gadget shops called Sangeetha Mobiles. Two leading retail chains say iPhone sales have fallen to one-third of their January level.

In the Indian market, Apple ranks 11th and accounts for just one percent of India's phone sales, selling fewer than one million iPhones during the first half of 2018. Comparatively, rival smartphone maker Xiaomi sold "more than 19 million" during that period, according to data gathered by Counterpoint Research.

As usual, much of the conversation surrounding Apple's disappointing performance in the country is due to its higher smartphone prices in comparison to the company's peers in India. Nagaraja B.C., the manager of a local smartphone store named Poorvika Mobile World, said that his average shopper's budget is "about 10,000 rupees," or $150.

Apple's cheapest model in the market, the locally-made iPhone SE, is nearly twice that price, leading many customers to opt for smartphones like the Xiaomi Redmi 5A at $100. As part of the new strategy, Apple is said to be in talks with retailers and banks to "offer holiday deals year round" to convince customers to purchase its smartphones.

Tag: India

Top Rated Comments

Anandc Avatar
35 months ago
I'm from Bombay, India.

I have owned Apple products for decades from MacBook Pro to iPhones. I was even an Android user buying flagships smartphones of Sony.

For any luxury brand/company to pitch higher sales needs a very strategies pricing. iPhone X in India cost about 1300USD. That's a very steep price even for the Americans. But as long as you have a good middle income and high income market, it's still affordable. But in India, even if they have the money, they will still buy OnePlus or any other Chinese brand because they're getting everything or even more at half the price. And for many people this makes sense in India.

Apple doesn't need to change anything. It just needs to get all it's features down here.

Apple Pay - There's no Apple Pay. In India, Android phones can do NFC payments but iPhones can't. Imagine you have a USD1300 smartphone and you can't do NFC payments while those cheap 300-500USD can do NFC payments.

Apple Maps - We know Apple Maps have 3D Maps and turn-by-turn navigation but nothing is here in India. It's a waste. Specially Apple CarPlay doesn't support Maps turn-by-turn navigation.

Siri - Siri is as dumb as it can be in India. It doesn't let you book tables in restaurants, it doesn't tell you the movie timings, no regional language support etc.

Apple Stores - This is needed. It connects the customers straight to the brand. It's a different experience buying the phone from it's flagship store rather than some shop. Think of this in a way where you would only like to buy a car from it's showroom and not from anywhere else.

Apple TV App/Apple News App - We don't have these apps. I don't know why!

Surprisingly, Apple has not left only India but also many many countries without it's key features.

If you are not from US or UK, you are probably missing some features for sure. That's where Apple needs to understand that customers are ready to pay and the sales are the fact that people are still buying without having all the features but Apple took India for granted and they paid the price for it.

And let me tell you, India loves iPhones. They're crazy over smartphones and they totally believe iPhone is the god of all. The problem is not the pricing, it's the justification of pricing. If I am paying 1300USD, what am I getting back?

Look at Vivo Nex, OnePlust 6T, Huawei P20 Pro etc. These smartphones are simply copying iPhone X and selling at half the price with all the features available for the user.

If iPhone wants the market share, it needs to do more than what these Chinese brands can't do. And that's not just India but everywhere, even in US.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
avtella Avatar
35 months ago
Has anyone articulated why Apple "needs" to be in the Indian market, if the people there are too poor to be able to afford Apple products? Lack of price discipline and tendency of consumers to haggle show that this is still a primitive market.
There is still a pretty large Upper Middle Class/Upper Class population that could afford high end phones in raw numbers though it may seem tiny percentage wise. Even let’s say hypothetically 60-80 Million potential customers who can afford to buy high end units out of ~1.4 Billion that’s still a lot in terms of raw numbers. The middle and upper middle class is still expanding, from some 260 Million in 16 expected to hit 470+ Million by 30. Also there is room for growth vs comparative saturation in the high end market in more developed places.

I’m sure Apple has looked at demographics, rising income levels and upper middle class population statistics and growth projections just like other manufacturers.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
code-m Avatar
35 months ago
All of your points are well taken but you keep mentioning features and justification for pricing. These things are not traditionally part of Apple's marketing strategy. With Apple, you pay a premium and get the Apple brand which includes quality, support, usability and the Apple ecosystem. The only time Apple mentions features is when they've updated them or added them to their newest products. They don't do comparative value against Android devices for instance so I don't see Apple changing their approach to India nor do I see them succeeding until India's middle and upper middle class grow sufficiently.

I am uncertain if you mistaken the persons concerns, without Apple related services there is no incentive to purchase an Apple product. Think of it as such, BMW sells a vehicle in India, claims it is a better experience/eco-system compared to competitors, however you cannot use the speed/power the vehicle can offer, cannot use the GPS, or other BMW only related services that contributes to the experience, does not have a BMW dealership to purchase, repairs, etc. However is willing to sell this expensive vehicle in India and then complains that it is not doing well.

It has very little to do with affordability and more to do with incentive. Given that people replace their phones every 1-2 years, why would a local purchase an expensive phone with all these drawbacks compared to its competitors when Apple is not willing to make an investment in the Indian market for its services. I am not even going to bring up the issue of theft.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
69Mustang Avatar
35 months ago
Has anyone articulated why Apple "needs" to be in the Indian market, if the people there are too poor to be able to afford Apple products? Lack of price discipline and tendency of consumers to haggle show that this is still a primitive market.
Because the rest of their markets are either close to maturity, or mature and slightly stagnant. There's not much growth currently. Offering higher priced skus, while potentially providing more revenue, won't help with growth. Apple thinks India is s burgeoning market that will help with growth. With a ~1% market share, there's plenty of room for growth. It's just going to have to be growth that mixes flagship and mid tier offerings.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheShadowKnows! Avatar
35 months ago
Cook's retooled sale strategy for the Indian market, using installment loans:

Less cost than "one cup of chai a day"/s
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kbk75 Avatar
35 months ago
LOL, 5-6 times?

The original iPhone was $499. Steve Job cut the price to $349 because it was too expensive.

You just lost all credibility with your ridiculous claims.
Currency exchange rates, taxes and price gouging by Apple have, together, made flagship iPhones (and all Apple products) approx 3x the price they were less than a decade ago, in India. A 32GB iPhone 3GS cost approximately ₹30,000 in 2009, if memory serves. A 256GB iPhone X cost ₹103,000 in 2017. Both were the flagship device from Apple in each year.

This is why most smart buyers in India buy their Apple products abroad. These numbers don’t get included in Apple’s India sales figures which, as you have repeatedly mentioned, were around a million units for phones last year, but I digress. Don’t be so quick to talk about people’s credibility when your own knowledge on the subject seems limited to what you’ve read in an article, it just makes you come across as ignorant, if not prejudiced.
[doublepost=1533597214][/doublepost]
Great explanation. Problem is, it doesn't support your argument at all.

Vehicles sold in India in 2017:

* Audi: 7,878

* BMW: 9,800
* Mercedes-Benz: 15,330


Compare this to the over 300k and 600k cars Mercedes sold in the U.S. and China, respectively.

India has a huge population. But the population can't afford to buy premium or luxury products.
Cars are the most highly taxed of all products in India, especially if they are imported from overseas. A German made BMW, Audi or Mercedes sold in India costs roughly 3-4x what it costs in the U.S. Locally assembled versions cost around 2.5-3x what they do in the U.S.

What’s more, the poor roads, unavailability of high grade fuel, consumables, spare parts and reliable, trustworthy service makes buying an expensive, imported car something only the truly wealthy in India would consider. It’s pointless comparing sales figures from the U.S. (or even China for that matter) to those in India because the market and infrastructure in the countries is entirely different.

Mercedes would not have sold 300k cars in the U.S. in 2017 if their average selling price were 3x what they actually sold for and U.S. infrastructure were what it is in India. Apples and Oranges, really.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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