Bloomberg: Apple has a comeback plan for India

This is a critical test for Apple’s international sales team, one that they seem to be failing.

From Here’s Apple’s Plan to Keep From Losing the World’s Fastest-Growing Smartphone Market:

india planDuring a weeklong trip to India two years ago, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told just about every employee, politician, and Bollywood star he saw that the country was central to his plans. During a July 31 earnings call, he barely mentioned it. Behind the scenes, though, he’s been working to remold Apple’s failing India strategy, according to current and former Apple employees.

Michel Coulomb, a well-regarded veteran Apple executive, parachuted in from Singapore to oversee its India operation at the end of last year. In June, having forced out three top sales executives, Coulomb spent three days with senior employees from throughout India at Apple’s sales and marketing headquarters in Gurugram, a tech hub south of New Delhi.

He and other executives laid out a strategy to rekindle iPhone sales that focused on better retail deals with higher sales targets, the establishment of Apple stores in India, an overhaul of the company’s relationships with independent retailers, and improved apps and other services aimed more closely at Indians, including a revamped version of Apple Maps by 2020, according to people familiar with the presentation…

None of this will make much difference if Apple doesn’t understand its customers. For years, Indian consumers have complained that Siri can’t process their requests in local languages, they have no access to Apple Pay, and Apple Maps can’t give them turn-by-turn directions or identify points of interest. The 2020 revamp is supposed to fix Maps’ failings, say the people familiar with Apple’s plans, but so far, the Maps development office the company set up in Hyderabad in 2016 has mostly been used for editing map data in other parts of the world.

My take: This is a critical test for Apple’s international sales team, one that they seem to be failing. It’s good to see Tim Cook cracking heads, but it’s still not clear to me who’s in charge. Coulomb, who replaced Sanjay Kaul as head of India in December, is the DRI (directly responsible individual). But he still reports to Hugues Asseman, who has overseen India—along with Europe, the Middle-East and Africa—out of London since 2011.


  1. Jonathan Mackenzie said:

    Though the nation is huge, and its GDP is ranked 6th in the world by the IMF, on a per capita basis it is ranked 122, down around Bolivia, Laos, and Uzbekistan. The sheer size of the country means there is a market opportunity here, but I think many people overestimate just how large the real market is today. This is a large poor country with a small class of ridiculously rich folks. That’s not going to change very quickly.

    August 6, 2018
    • My brother-in-law is an Indian ex-pat (now a US citizen). He comes from the financially and socially upper echelon. As he puts it India has such a large poor population is because government regulation prevents the upward mobility of the poor. In other words, it’s the epitome of the good old boy network, those with power use it to keep the masses in their place.

      But, he adds, that network is crumbling as the number of ex-pats, having experienced freer markets/societies, are becoming the new power brokers. They are supporting politicians and initiatives that are breaking down the very regs that caused them to leave India in the first place.

      Yes, it will take time to break down India’s upper crust protectionist ways, but it is happening and has been picking up momentum.

      From Wikipedia: “Averaging an economic growth rate of 7.5% for several years prior to 2007,[220] India has more than doubled its hourly wage rates during the first decade of the 21st century.[229] Some 431 million Indians have left poverty since 1985; India’s middle classes are projected to number around 580 million by 2030.[230] Though ranking 51st in global competitiveness, India ranks 17th in financial market sophistication, 24th in the banking sector, 44th in business sophistication, and 39th in innovation, ahead of several advanced economies, as of 2010.[231] With 7 of the world’s top 15 information technology outsourcing companies based in India, the country is viewed as the second-most favorable outsourcing destination after the United States, as of 2009.[232] India’s consumer market, the world’s eleventh-largest, is expected to become fifth-largest by 2030.[230] However, hardly 2% of Indians pay income taxes.[233]
      Driven by growth, India’s nominal GDP per capita has steadily increased from US$329 in 1991, when economic liberalization began, to US$1,265 in 2010, to an estimated US$1,723 in 2016, and is expected to grow to US$2,358 by 2020;”

      I see 2025 (at the latest) for India to become Apple’s 3rd largest market.

      August 6, 2018
  2. Fred Stein said:

    Tim Cook famously plays the long game. To grow in this important market, requires larger cash infusion than profit taken for quite a while. And that is the right approach.

    August 6, 2018

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