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

Picture credits: Indranil Aditya/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Apple is making headlines this week by opening its first retail store in India, a milestone some 25 years after entering the South Asian market. CEO Tim Cook is visiting the country, scheduling meetings with prominent business leaders including Mukesh Ambani of Reliance and Natarajan Chandrasekaran of the Tata Group, as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Apple gave a first glimpse of its BKC store in Mumbai to a group of more than a dozen bloggers who flew in for the occasion. The store officially opened to customers today, with a second outlet set to open in New Delhi on Thursday.

The establishment of Apple’s first retail stores 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 tech 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 beginning to bear fruit. Apple exported more than $5 billion worth of smartphones from India, nearly half of all the country’s exports, 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 are excited to build on our long history – supporting our customers, investing in local 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.

Although local iPhone assembly and the company’s contract partners are reaping the rewards of New Delhi’s generous incentives, Apple products, including the iPhone, are still prohibitively expensive in India, which has stunned analysts who thought Apple would pass the incentives on to customers.

Let’s take the base model of the iPhone 14 Pro as an example. It is priced at $999 in the US but costs over $1,550 in India. The iPhone 14 is of course not an isolated example. The second-generation HomePod, which sells for $299 in the US, costs $400 in India, considerably 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, remain unavailable to Indian consumers. The Apple Card and accompanying savings account feature in the US is also absent from the Indian market. Apple Maps and Siri offer fewer features for Indian customers. (Google Pay and Walmart’s PhonePe dominate the mobile payment 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 remarkable event, it has yet to bring substantial changes for Apple enthusiasts in the country.

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