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‘Opportunity enormous, journey extraordinary’

India has the potential to be among Apple’s top markets, chief executive Cook says
  • The Mumbai store is also among the most energy-efficient Apple Stores in the world, according to the company
  • Apple CEO at Tuesday’s store launch in Mumbai. (Photo: AFP)Premium
    Apple CEO at Tuesday’s store launch in Mumbai. (Photo: AFP)

    Mumbai: India could become one of Apple Inc.’s biggest markets one day, the iPhone maker’s chief executive said in Mumbai, on a day over a thousand people, many of them from across the country, poured into its first India store.

    “Over time, India will be one of Apple’s largest markets. I think it has that kind of potential," CEO Tim Cook said in a conversation with Mint after inaugurating the store at the swanky Jio World Drive mall in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex. A second Apple Store opens in Delhi’s Select CityWalk mall on Thursday.

    “We’ve brought manufacturing, an accelerator for developers, and we brought different functions within Apple here. So we’re all in," Cook said at the festive event attended by actor Madhuri Dixit, musician A.R. Rahman, and various other celebrities.

    Graphic: Mint
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    Graphic: Mint

    The opening of its first retail stores also marks Apple’s 25th year in the country, which it completed last week. Apple Stores are an integral part of the company’s ecosystem approach to selling products. Globally, these stores host sessions on Apple products and services and serve as service centres. The Mumbai store has over 100 staffers who speak more than 20 languages, the company said earlier.

    “We view India as great from a number of points of view. I think the skills here are unique, the vibrancy of the people and the culture, the dynamism of the market, the feeling that anything is possible—all of these things bode well for India in future, and we want to be a part of it. But not just from a market point of view, but all—from a skillset point of view, helping artists here…I can’t stress this enough, we’re all in," he added.

    Cook said he expects India’s journey to be “extraordinary", which cannot be compared with other markets. “It will be a unique journey because the country itself is unique. I wouldn’t spend a lot of time on comparisons," he said. “India’s journey will be extraordinary, whether you measure things in GDP, or however you want to measure things, the scale will be enormous," he added.

    Apple has posted three straight quarters of double-digit sales growth in India, even as it recorded an overall year-on-year revenue drop of 5% globally in the December quarter. According to data from IDC, Apple is estimated to have shipped 6.5 million iPhones in India in 2022, up from 4.8 million in 2021.

    In November, Mint reported that other products such as Macbooks, iPads and services were also becoming key contributors to the company’s India growth story. Earnings for the quarter ended March are to be announced on 4 May.

    On Tuesday, Cook said Apple’s retail stores in the country would help people discover its products and help them learn what they can do beyond looking at them simply as phones or laptops.

    “Apple retail is more than a store. That’s a small part of what it does. A large part of what it does is provide a place for people to discover and explore our products and how they can help them in some way," Cook said.

    “I think discoverability is a challenge in every country, not just India. Ultimately, you’re trying to match a product and its capabilities to a person and their desires, and that’s a one-to-one match. It’s not a one-to-many match. It’s a challenge everywhere, but one that we feel up to," he added.

    As part of the opening, Apple is offering a “Mumbai Rising" special at the store, with local artists and creative professionals offering free sessions on Apple products, along with other hands-on activities.

    The Mumbai store is also among the most energy-efficient Apple Stores in the world, according to the company. It claimed that the store uses a dedicated solar array and has zero reliance on fossil fuels for running operations.

    “The store is operationally carbon-neutral, running on 100% renewable energy," the company said in a press release.

    Apple did not release the number of visitors, but people Mint spoke with at the store estimated it to be in thousands by 4 pm. One customer, who had flown from Goa to visit the store, said he had waited in line for over an hour and a half to enter the store, and even though he didn’t buy anything, he spent over four hours shooting videos of the store and the overall event.

    There were also visitors from other parts of the country. A member of the events team engaged in managing the event estimated that 1,500 people visited the store on Monday.

    To be sure, Apple already sells and services its products at other physical locations in India, which are run by third parties. The new ones in Mumbai and Delhi are the first self-owned stores and have been rumoured to be in the works for more than a year now.

    Cook noted that some of the recent developments in India were delayed because of the pandemic.

    Analysts have said that combined with its own online store, the self-owned Apple Stores will offer the company more control over its retail channels here. However, most said that even though these stores will get priority access to products etc., it’s unlikely to hurt Apple’s partners since the company still needs them to expand its reach. Apple has a 4% market share in India’s smartphone market, implying plenty of room for growth.

    Cook also met some developers from Apple’s iOS Design and Development App Accelerator during his visit. Reports said the Apple boss is set to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi later this week. The Delhi store opens on 20 April, and like the Mumbai store, Cook is set to inaugurate that one as well.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    Prasid Banerjee
    An engineering dropout, Prasid Banerjee has reported on technology in India for various publications. He reports on technology through text and audio, focusing on its core aspects, like consumer impact, policy and the future.
    Catch all the Technology News and Updates on Live Mint. Check all the latest action on Budget 2024 here. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.
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    Published: 19 Apr 2023, 12:20 AM IST
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