How Apple lost its India plot

The company which was once an inspiration for marketers is now grappling with its sales strategy, not just in India, but globally too

by Ruhail Amin
Published - Jan 8, 2019 8:31 AM Updated: Jan 8, 2019 8:31 AM
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The news of dwindling iPhone sales has brought the focus back on Apple Inc., which until recently prided itself for its unstoppable success run. The company which was once an inspiration for marketers is now grappling with its sales strategy, not just in India, but globally too. In order to fathom the reason behind Apple’s sales dip, we spoke to some experts who attributed some keys factors responsible for this state of affairs.

According to Aroon Kumar, Director Marketing and Corporate Affairs, RICS, South Asia, “When the great Steve Jobs created Apple products, his sole focus was on technology innovations, product enhancement and usability excellence for the consumers. With time technology became so agile that to keep pace with fast-changing technology dynamics that manipulate consumers’ preferences, Apple started giving up the exclusivity and focused more on features and hardware. Post 2016 launch of iPhone 6 and the new design change with iPhone X in 2018 didn’t go well with the customers for its hefty price, while the same design with better features and aggressive price points by the competitors like Xiaomi, OnePlus, Oppo and Vivo etc. have flooded the market with affordable handsets, superseding even market leader Samsung. The Android ecosystem is ruling the Indian market with a 98% share whereas Apple is having only 2% market share in the smartphone segment.”

“India is not just any other market, it has its own dynamics and brands like Apple need to understand the consumer psychology which is to get the best at a much more affordable price than the other markets. While working on the pricing factors, Apple needs to reinvent its marketing efforts to reposition among the Indian smartphone users who are very sensitive about the price factor while looking for the best built and advance featured smartphones,” he further added.

Explaining this dip in iPhone sales which has posted a cumulative loss of billions of dollars to the company, Roshan Abbas, MD, Geometry Encompass stated, “India is many India's in one. The high-end iPhone users continue to grumble and upgrade but at least a large part of the millennial mindset is value-based buying. With features, brands were always playing catch-up to Apple but now many of them have left Apple behind in tech specs. All that remains was the halo which too has been usurped by brands like One plus, Vivo, Oppo etc.”

“The amount Chinese brands have spent on marketing is stupendous. And so consumers have moved to multiple options. Brand loyalty is dead. Tech specs change every two months and not changing to a better value option is now looked at as being stupid and not smart”, added Abbas.

For Manish Porwal, MD, Alchemist Marketing & Talent Solutions, these dwindling sales is a short-term phenomenon.

“I don’t think it’s a very long-term phenomenon, I think it is short-lived. The value equation of Apple was more in terms of a brand differentiation that they had created. They have brought products faster and the differentiation in price is probably not justified for most Indians. So the entire part of novelty is no longer there. I know in the long term Apple knows this and India is a very important market for them and I’m sure they will take steps towards that.”

Harish Bijoor, Brand Expert and Founder Harish Bijoor Inc opines "Apple kept its appeal global in a rather large market like India. A lack of looking Indian, feeling Indian and emoting Indian is a unique apple gap. That's a gap to fill."

Home Credit India is one of the largest mobile loan providers in the country as far as penetration of smart mobile phones in the country is concerned. Sharing her thoughts about the Apple sales dip, Nidhi Malik, VP, Home Credit India, said, “Apple missed to look at the customer’s point of view and competition’s speed to market. It took its brand effect too seriously to miss developing its ecosystem for IOS; bringing price parity & feature parity. Phones with the same features are available at much lesser cost from equally strong brands. Also, the Apple store has limited offers, as developments of apps were faster and lot more for Android system, for instance, the Indian version of music streaming has variants like Saavn, Gaana, Hungama, and IOS. Lastly, Jio brought the need for dual SIM phones, which again was a miss for Apple. All in all, it lost its brand steam to the features and value from other brands.“

exchange4media reached out to Apple India for their comments but did not get a response at the time of filing this story.

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