Apple Inc: No Brand In India…

By: Rajat Gaur
Logo Apple IndiaApple might be world’s first Trillion Dollar company, but things are very different in the world's largest democracy (population wise). It wouldn’t be harsh to say that Apple has been a total flop story in India. While Google has become a household name, more than 70% of India’s population doesn’t even know that Apple is a technology company based in California. According to a report, Apple ships fewer iPhones to India than it does to Norway. It’s worth mentioning here that Norway is more than 200 times smaller than India in terms of population. So what are the reasons why the world’s most valuable brand is lagging behind in the world’s second largest mobile phone market ? Let’s try to enlist a few of them. (1.) Indifferent Apple- Most of us will opine that it has been mainly due to the high price tags attached to the Apple products that the company is finding it difficult to ground its roots in India. But that’s only partly true. Though India is counted amongst the poor countries but it is also the country that ranks fourth in the list of countries by the number of billionaires. India may be poor in terms of percentage of population, but if one considers the gross, India ranks ninth in the world. Secondly, a number of other highly priced devices by other brands like Samsung, LG, HTC and RIM have been quite successful (at least more than the much hyped i-devices). So high pricing is although one reason for Apple’s failure in India (as is discussed under the next sub-heading), but not at all the only one. The most prominent reason for Apple’s failure is its indifferent approach towards the Indian market. It seems as if Apple never wanted to sell its products in India. It’s doing so just for the sake of being called a global company. I’ve never heard that Apple is doing an advertising campaign in India. The ads that you occasionally come across in your newspaper or on your TV are not financed by Apple. In fact Airtel and Aircel have outsourced the ads from the American market and are publishing/airing them at their expenses. Furthermore, whenever a new version of iPhone or iPad is launched, India, despite being the second largest mobile phone market, is always among the last countries to get it.

(2.) High Price Tag- This is the most obvious factor responsible for Apple’s fiasco in the emerging Indian market. Though Apple devices are quite expensive everywhere around the world, Apple perhaps did a blunder by pricing its iconic iPhone in India four times more than that in its native US market. In US you can buy a brand new iPhone 4S starting from $199(around INR 10.5K) , while the same iPhone 4S will cost you INR 44K in India. Moreover you can get an iPhone 3G S for nothing in US. If you are not quite familiar with Apple’s way of marketing, you might wonder how is Apple giving away the iPhone 3G S for free! Apple has tie-ups with US mobile carriers like AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. These carriers sell the iPhones, at quite low prices, coupled with their voice and data plans. They are able to do so because they make up for the remaining cost of the iPhone within a year or two of subscription of their data plans. Such a pact is obviously not possible in the Indian scenario where unlimited internet plans are priced under INR 1000. For two years of continuous subscription, the carrier will get just INR 24000 (here I’m not talking about the profit, but the net revenue collected). Now if iPhone is sold for INR 10000, then the mobile carriers will have to make up for the rest of the INR 34000. This explains why these kind of tie-ups don’t suit the price sensitive Indian market. So Apple decided to go bereft of any such pacts in the Indian market, and therefore an Indian end-user has to pay the entire cost of an iPhone.

(3.) No iTunes Music Store- The most annoying thing about the iPhone and iPad is you have to depend on the lazy iTunes Media Manager to transfer files between your phone/tablet and PC/Mac. Adding to that, you can’t even set a song/tune that you have not downloaded from the iTunes store as your ringtone (however there is a tricky method to do that). Despite of these annoying limitations, iPhone has become the most popular phone in US and other markets because there is almost a monopoly of iTunes Music store among the legal sources of multimedia content in those markets. In India Apple has not even launched its iTunes music store, which according to me has been one of the factors responsible for iPhone’s success in many markets.

Files that have not been downloaded from the iTunes store, have to be either manually added to the iTunes library or have to be stored in the “Automatically Add To iTunes” folder in your PC, (Music → iTunes → iTunes Media → Automatically add To iTunes) to be transferred to your iPhone. Adding files manually is a very tiring job to do as you have to drag and drop every single file and storing files in the “Automatically Add To iTunes” folder is also not a viable option. So it might be safely concluded that using iTunes to manage files that haven’t been downloaded from the iTunes store is not (at all) a good idea. Since there is no iTunes Music Store for Indian users, that well might be a reason why Indians are keeping away from the iPhone and iPad.