Hit by radical changes in its distribution strategy, Apple logged its lowest quarterly growth in India by grabbing a mere 1 percent market share, according to Counterpoint Research’s latest data. The Cupertino giant is still relying on imports for its sales in the country as its domestic assembling is yet to pick up pace, the report added. In the January-March quarter, Apple's share fell to 20 percent in the premium segment compared to 43 percent last year.
Ironically, Apple’s dismal quarter in India comes just a few months after the Apple chief lauded its strong performance in May. “In India we set a new first-half record,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a Q2 earnings call with analysts in May, alluding to the strong performance in India. “We continue to put great energy there,” Cook contended, adding that the objective of the brand is to go in with different initiatives from retail and everything else. “It's a huge market and it's clear that many people will be moving into the middle class over time,” he reckoned.
While Cook contended in the earnings call that Apple is ‘putting a lot of energy’ in the third largest smartphone market in the world, the results are clearly not what the smartphone giant would have planned.
“Apple has had a terrible quarter in India,” says Shobhit Srivastava, research analyst at Counterpoint. Apart from restructuring its operations in India, including the recent reported exit of a slew of senior officials, Apple has also been cracking down on retailers who were selling the phones on discount. “While the move was aimed to preserve the premium-ness of the brand, it has hit the company,” Srivastava adds.
However, what appears to have hit the Apple most is the performance of OnePlus in the premium segment. The OnePlus 6 was the best-selling model in the premium segment, making it the leader for the full quarter surpassing Samsung and Apple. “The premium segment is getting crowded with OnePlus and Samsung breathing down the neck of Apple,” reckons Srivastava.
Another major handicap for Apple has been its prohibitively expensive tag, which prevents it from getting scale. “Only iPhone 6 is made in India. And why would people buy an old model,” asks Ashita Aggarwal, marketing professor, SP Jain Institute of Management and Research. “Apple not only needs make-in-India but also made-for-India pricing,” she says, adding that while advertising does help you in grabbing eyeballs, it’s finding right pricing in India which will help Apple crack the India market. “In fact, it’s a Catch22 situation for them. If they lower price, they would lose their exclusive tag, and if they keep it, they would find tough to get buyers,” she concludes.