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

Image Credit: Aditya in Indra/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Apple is making headlines this week when it opens its first retail store in India, marking a significant milestone nearly 25 years after entering the South Asian market. CEO Tim Cook plans meetings with key business leaders including Reliance’s Mukesh Ambani and Tata Group’s Natarajan Chandrasekaran and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Apple visited its BKC store in Mumbai for a group of over a dozen bloggers for the event. The store was officially opened to customers today, with a second retail location planned 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 technology 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. According to industry analysts, in the fiscal year ended March, Apple exported smartphones worth $5 billion from India.

“At Apple, our mission is to empower and empower people around the world,” Cook said in a statement on Monday. “India has a beautiful culture and incredible potential, and we’re excited to build on our long-standing history – supporting our customers, investing in local communities and working together to create a better future with innovation that serves humanity.”

However, the benefits of these initiatives have yet to be fully realized by one important stakeholder: Apple customers.

Although local iPhone assembly and the company’s contract partners have benefited from New Delhi’s generous incentives, Apple products, including the iPhone, remain expensive in India, dismaying analysts who thought Apple would pass on incentives to customers.

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Take the base model iPhone 14 Pro as an example. It costs $999 in the US but sells for over $1,550 in India. The iPhone 14 isn’t an isolated example, of course. The second-generation HomePod, which retails for $299 in the US, is priced at $400 in India, which is significantly more expensive than the first-generation HomePod.

Official iPhone cases cost the same price as some of the country’s best-selling Android smartphones. According to market intelligence firm Counterpoint, Google’s Android commands 98% of the local smartphone market.

Many popular Apple services like News+, Fitness+ and Apple Pay are not available to Indian consumers. The Apple Card and its associated savings account feature in the US are also not available in the Indian market. Apple Maps and Siri offer fewer features for Indian customers. (Google Pay and Walmart’s PhonePe are leading the mobile payments market in India.)

The reality is that millions of Indian consumers continue to buy Apple products despite feeling like secondary customers. Although Tim Cook’s visit to India once in five years is a significant event, it has yet to bring much change to Apple enthusiasts in the country.

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