Apple opens its first store in India, but customer challenges persist

Image credit: Indranil Aditya/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Apple CEO Tim Cook opened the first Apple Store in India on Tuesday in a significant milestone for the iPhone maker about 25 years after it entered the South Asian market. During his India trip, the first in years, Cook is holding planning meetings with prominent business leaders including Reliance’s Mukesh Ambani and Tata Group’s Natarajan Chandrasekaran, as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Apple steps up its battle against Samsung for the luxury smartphone market in Asia. second largest economy.

The US giant’s first official store – and the second outlet is scheduled to open in New Delhi on Thursday – comes at a time when Apple is ramping up production in India, hoping to turn one of the world’s biggest smartphone markets into a key one. global iPhone assembly hub.

Apple’s iPhones currently account for less than 5% of the Indian smartphone market, but its share has grown in recent years as more Indians buy premium phones. The opening of Apple’s 20,000 square meter store in the Reliance-owned high-end mall in the financial capital of Mumbai attracted hundreds of people who queued to watch Cook open the glass doors.

The establishment of Apple’s first resellers and the company’s increased efforts to assemble iPhones and other products in India underscore the importance of the South Asian market for the Cupertino-based technology giant. According to JP Morgan analysts, Apple is expected to expand its manufacturing capacity in India to produce 25% of all iPhones by 2025.

The company’s increased production is already starting to produce results. Apple exported smartphones worth $5 billion from India, nearly half of all exports from the country, in the fiscal year that ended in March, according to industry analysts.

“At Apple, our mission is to enrich lives and empower people around the world,” Cook said in a statement Monday. “India has such a beautiful culture and incredible energy, and we’re excited to build on our long-standing history – supporting our customers, investing in communities and working together to build a better future with innovations that serve humanity.”

However, the benefits of these initiatives have yet to be fully realized by one crucial stakeholder: Apple’s customers.

Despite local iPhone assembly and the company’s contract partners reaping the benefits of New Delhi’s generous incentives, Apple products, including the iPhone, remain prohibitively expensive in India in a move that has stunned analysts who thought Apple would pass the incentives on to customers.

Take the base model iPhone 14 Pro as an example. It is priced at $999 in the US but retails for over $1,550 in India. The iPhone 14 is not an isolated example, of course. The second-generation HomePod, which retails for $299 in the US, costs $400 in India, significantly more expensive than the first-generation HomePod.

Official iPhone cases are priced the same as some of the country’s best-selling Android smartphones. Google’s Android controls 98% of the local smartphone market, according to market intelligence firm Counterpoint.

Several popular Apple services, such as News+, Fitness+ and Apple Pay, are still unavailable to Indian consumers. The Apple Card and its accompanying savings account feature in the US is also absent from the Indian market. Apple Maps and Siri offer fewer features to Indian customers. (Google Pay and Walmart’s PhonePe lead the mobile payments market in India.)

The reality is that millions of Indian consumers continue to buy Apple products despite feeling like second-tier customers. While Tim Cook’s visit to India every five years is a notable event, it has yet to bring about significant change for the country’s Apple enthusiasts.

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