Apple looks at Indian smartphone market with new glasses

New Delhi, August 4 (IANS): Tim Cook has an interesting connection with India. A big believer in the Indian middle class, Cook last visited the country officially in May 2016 and since then, we hear him praising the country from his Cupertino-headquarters in California, often during analysts' call at the end of the company's quarter results.


According to industry analysts, Cook is aware of the immense potential in the country -- which has over 450 million smartphone users -- and would fully utilise the aspirational value of the brand as saturation has set in, in the rest of the smartphone economies including China.


The number of smartphone users in India is expected to reach 859 million by 2022, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.9 per cent, according to an ASSOCHAM-PwC joint study. Internet consumption is rising in the country owing to cheap data plans and for Apple, nothing can be as lucrative a market than India today.


The smartphone usage in India is increasing despite the global smartphone shipments again falling 1.2 per cent in the second quarter (Q2) this year - marking the seventh consecutive quarter of decline, according to Counterpoint Research.


That day appears not too far when Apple, with its deep pockets, will unleash its energies as its own branded stores arrive and the company starts manufacturing brand new iPhones locally.


Apple iPhone shipments fell 11 per cent in its third quarter ending June 29 globally but in India, it grew 19 per cent (YoY), according to Counterpoint Research.


"India bounced back. During the quarter, we returned to growth there. We are very happy with that," said the Apple CEO.


Promotional offers and aggressive marketing has helped Apple to drive revenues in India.


"Apple's market share in India has grown in recent years. It is a premium range player and is performing well in that segment in the country," says Anshul Gupta, Research Director at Gartner.


According to Gupta, like any other major player, the iPhone maker is bullish on the country and plans to expand its operations.


Apple has already started the assembling of iPhone 7 at its supplier Wistron's facility in Bengaluru.


According to Luca Maestri, Apple's CFO, the company set June quarter revenue records in several major developed markets.


"In emerging markets, we returned to growth in Mainland China, grew strong double digits in India and Brazil and we set new Q3 records in Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines," Maestri added.


Despite the global decline, iPhone sales trends are improving in India and this is time for Cook to visit the country and explore further.


He knows that Apple has been successful in India, evident from the fact that iPhone users are some of the most loyal users among all smartphone brands, waiting eagerly to get their hands on the new model of iPhone.


Cook also realises that the high prices of new iPhones have kept Indian hold onto their devices for a longer period.


India for him is a very important market in the long-term.


"We would like to place retail stores there. And we're working with the government to seek approval to do that. And so, we plan on going in there with sort of all of our might," he reiterated.


Cook also said that it doesn't bother him that it's primarily Android business at the moment in India "because that just means there's a lot of opportunity there".


A renewed push on manufacturing new iPhones, Apple Watch and iPads would take Apple in a big league - in a market where aspirations are very high, especially among the millennials.


Mobile devices are becoming the consumers' preferred choice to consume content and Apple, with its myriad of services like Apple Music and an upcoming Apple TV+ with top-of-the-line content from top Hollywood producers and directors, must look at India with new lenses.