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From arrogance to servility: Apple’s U-turn in India

Source | Quartz India 

In September 2014, Apple launched the much-awaited iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus. The new phones were launched in 10 countries, including Hong Kong and Singapore in Asia, on the same day. But as has been the case for over a decade, Apple neither launched the two devices in India nor announced a date by which the smartphones would be made available in the country.

The company’s fans in the country purchased the phones in the grey market for anywhere between Rs100,000 to Rs200,000—around five times the official price in the US.
 

India was definitely not high on Apple’s radar till a few years ago. “I love India but I believe that Apple has higher potential…in some other countries. That doesn’t mean we’re not interested in India—we are. We’re going to continue putting some energies there, but in the intermediate term there will be larger opportunities elsewhere,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in July 2012.

 But over the recent months, India has become a promising market for the American tech giant. While announcing the company’s quarterly earnings on April 26, Cook called India a “really great opportunity.” “We’ve been working (in India) with great energy over the last 18 months or so, and I am encouraged by the results that we’re beginning to see there,” Cook said during the company’s earnings call.
 And, less than a month later, Cook made his first official trip to the world’s second largest smartphone market.
 

New love

Until recently, Apple was just playing in the premium smartphone segment in India, which is around 4% of the overall market as per some estimates. Now, the company desperately wants to sell more affordable, refurbished phones, which would drastically improve its sales in a price-sensitive India. So far, it has failed to get an approval for the same from the government.

Despite regulatory restrictions, India is among the top priorities for Apple going forward, Cook said in an interview to television channel NDTV. The company is now approaching India “very humbly” and hoping to stay in the market for a “thousand years,” he said.
 On the first day of Cook’s trip, Apple announced the setting up of a mobile apps accelerator in Bengaluru by early 2017. On the next day, Cook inaugurated Apple’s new office in Hyderabad. The company will hire up to 4,000 new employees at this office, Apple said.
 Even tough the company did not announce the exact amount of investments in the two new facilities, Cook told NDTV that Apple would spend “several hundred million dollars” on the Hyderabad office and the Bengaluru centre would also be a “major investment.”
 Cook also met several Indian business leaders, including senior executives of Reliance Industries, ICICI Bank, Bharti Airtel and Tata Group. He engaged with the country’s booming technology startup industry and visited the office of online restaurant discovery startup Zomato. The Apple boss even found the time to visit an Indian temple, attend a Bollywood party and watch a cricket match.

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