Is Apple Ignoring India?

India

Apple Store in Shanghai

With another Apple retail store opening soon in Turkey and Apple Stores chief Angela Ahrendts’ plan to open 30 stores in China by 2016, one wonders why there still aren’t any Apple stores in India. Not that there aren’t places that you can’t buy an iPhone or iPad from. But these are generic phone and network providers, not a glass fronted building sporting a proud Apple logo. Is Apple ignoring India?

Of the four BRIC countries, India seems to be the lowest priority for Apple. This doesn’t seem to be due to Indian people not using or wanting to use mobile phones. In fact, after the US and China, India is the third-largest smartphone market in the world. With the middle class growing rapidly, smartphones have become more than a necessity — they are now status symbols, much like in China. Young professionals, entrepreneurs, businessmen love to show-off their latest gadgets. But in most cases this is a Samsung device.

According to India’s Economic Times, 19 million smartphones were sold in India in 2012, out of which over a third were by Samsung. Apple only just beat Blackberry to take second place. The population is increasingly leaning towards cheaper Samsung phones. In terms of tablets, iPad is gaining popularity but is still far behind Samsung tablets. Does Apple think it’s too late to wrest the market share from Samsung?

There have been some talks about Tim Cook revisiting the India plan and increasing Apple’s presence in the country by 2015. However, these do not include actual Apple retail stores but outlets owned by local franchisees. Would that be enough? Can Apple take control of the smartphone market without having an actual presence in at least the big cities — New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Calcutta? People have the money to spend, but they need to know what they’re getting in return. A stylish Apple store where it can showcase all its products would be a massive attraction for users.

One reason for Apple shying away from India could be the retail reform rules introduced in January, 2012. According to this, single-brand foreign companies are most welcome in the country as long as 30% of the goods are sourced from India. Maybe Apple is hoping for this rule to be revoked under the new government. Or according to a report in Economic Times, the government may relax the rule by allowing Apple’s IT outsourcing operations as part of the 30%. But one wonders why this is stopping a smartphone giant like Apple from making inroads into a large consumer market like India’s. Does Apple believe India has been lost to Android?

We hope that it is a matter of not “if” but “when” Apple will begin to influence the Indian smartphone market. And we hope it’s soon.

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