Online store speaks of Apple’s India focus

Venkatesh Ganesh Mumbai September 18 | Updated on September 18, 2020 Published on September 18, 2020

The store will have the full range of Apple products

The upcoming launch of Apple’s first fully-owned store in India is an indication of its long-term outlook for the country, at a time when it is facing the heat of the US-China trade war.

Apple said that it will launch its (online) Apple Store in India on September 23, which will have its full range of products and support customers directly across the country, for the first time. The new online store will provide customers with the same premium experience found in Apple stores worldwide, the company said.

“We’re proud to be expanding in India and want to do all we can to support our customers and their communities,” said Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s Senior Vice-President of Retail + People.

Apple currently sells through its Imagine-brand franchise stores, third-party retailers in India including Croma and Amazon, and up till now did not own a store here, due to regulatory restrictions. These restrictions, related to FDI. The government had initially said that foreign retailers must source 30 per cent of their products locally, but has since relaxed these norms. Now, companies have been given up to eight years to meet the sourcing requirements.

Commitment to govt, users

In part, Apple’s move is seen as a sort of hedge, especially at a time when the US-China as well as India-China relations are tense. “Apple is weighing all its options and this works for it in two ways — one, it signals commitment to the government; and second, to its users, it shows that it is serious about this market,” said Faisal Kawoosa, Founder & Chief Analyst, techARC.

“Brands have to show commitment, and having an online-only store does not satisfy that condition,” he added. Apple’s renewed push also comes at a time when Asia’s third-largest economy is facing an economic slowdown, which was further accentuated by Covid-19. In a market which is dominated by Samsung, Apple saw a 78 per cent yearly growth in iPhone sales in the first quarter of 2020, according to Counterpoint Research. Apple manufactures its iPhone SE range in India.

So, what does this mean in terms of business for Apple’s franchisees, large format retailers and e-commerce companies? “All the channels will continue to co-exist, as is the case with other brands such as HP and Lenovo, as it depends on customers’ preferences,” said Lloyd Mathias, an angel investor and former head of marketing of HP. Queries to Croma went unanswered.

Kawoosa agreed. “Apple will not open stores in the length and breadth of the country and will look at its wholly-owned stores as an experience centre that showcases all their products,” he said.

Apple’s move also comes as a relief to aficionados who often complain that their franchisees do not stock their wide range of products, and many a time are left disappointed at the stock. “More than discounting, this store will be to showcase what the Apple experience is all about,” said Mathias.

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Published on September 18, 2020
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