These headlines about Apple in India make me crazy

What does the U.S. tech press know about Indian politics and government?

On Monday we got a wave of headlines—the third in as many months—declaring Apple's plans to sell refurbished iPhones in India to be dead on arrival.

It's a story that practically writes itself. It fits the click-friendly Apple-is-doomed narrative, and it makes Tim Cook's whirlwind tour of India seem like a failure.

Color me dubious.

First of all, most of these pieces are me-too stories, quickie re-write jobs citing the same handful of news outlets that still maintain bureaus on the subcontinent.

But even those reports are thin. They all quote the same source: Commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who reiterated her distaste for used iPhones at a press conference Monday:

"We are not in favor of any company selling used phones in the country, however certified they may be."

Is Sitharaman's word final? Does she speak for the Indian government?

I know almost nothing about Indian politics, and I suspect most of the U.S.-based journalists who wrote those "officially rejected" headlines know even less.

I do know, because I looked it up, that there are 65 officials in the Indian government with the title of minister, and that some of them might also have say in the matter. Check it out.

India's Ministers

Source: Wikipedia. Click to enlarge. 


  1. Gianfranco Pedron said:
    If “used” is distasteful and “certified” is not in favor, how about “remanufactured”? (With the prospect of the leading “re” being made silent.)

    Liam takes “extensively tested” iPhones apart, Apple ships CKD’s (Complete Knockdown Kit) of thoroughly tested parts to India for assembly by Indian labor into brand new phones consisting only of the best and most durable components, exclusively offered only in India. (… and possibly for export to developing nations – the Indian government should LOVE that.)

    Assembly labour can easily be made to comprise 30% of the total cost, thereby satisfying Make in India requirements.

    May 31, 2016
  2. George Providaked said:
    There appears to be some conflicting narratives in India, that is, pride says do not “dump” second class products i.e., used iPhones in India while also insisting on local manufacturing and distribution. Ironically, new iPhones are sold in India while the rest of the world gets new and re-furbished devices including iPhones.

    It will be interesting to see how Apple addresses these narratives. Perhaps refurbishing iPhones in India for sale thereby creating jobs and in some measure local value content as observed in other comments.

    The real internal issue for the Indian Government is to entice Apple and other high tech companies to do R&D as well as some manufacturing/services in India, but this negotiation is tricky. Putting up barriers to outside investment and sales is probably going to delay these opportunities and I suspect some of the Indian leadership appreciate this point.

    As observed more to come on this – Apple has been patient in China and will be so in India and try to find the right accommodations. As in China, Apple is not out to transform the country, just do business and again as in China, accommodations can be a real boom to the local economies as well as long term future of Tech in those countries.

    May 31, 2016

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