Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Steve Jobs, spirituality, and now Tim Cook: Why Apple sees India as 'glass half full'

Steve Jobs visited India before he set up Apple, and his learnings from the country greatly influenced his product design sense. Apple may have only a five percent market share in India so far, but Tim Cook says "I'm very bullish on India"—A look into Apple's old connection with India and its new ambition

Naandika Tripathi
Published: May 3, 2023 01:22:58 PM IST
Updated: May 3, 2023 01:41:53 PM IST

Steve Jobs, spirituality, and now Tim Cook: Why Apple sees India as 'glass half full'Apple CEO Tim Cook; Image: Madhu Kapparath

Apple’s connection with India dates to a time when the company had not even launched. During the mid-1970s, Steve Jobs visited India, looking for ‘spiritual enlightenment’ and lived here for almost seven months. Reportedly, his experience wasn’t great but one of the takeaways was that his design sense was greatly influenced by the “simplicities of Zen Buddhism” and “intuition”.

Steve Jobs, spirituality, and now Tim Cook: Why Apple sees India as 'glass half full'Jobs told Walter Isaacson, who wrote a biography on him, “The main thing I’ve learned is intuition, that the people in India are not just pure rational thinkers, that the great spiritual ones also have an intuition.” After returning from India, Jobs, along with his friend Steve Wozniak, founded Apple Computer in 1976.

However, India was never a high-priority market for the company. In the early years, it took months for a new Apple product to make its way to India. Apple started slow here, gauging the demand but also realising that the price would remain a hindrance in terms of reaching a larger audience. Owning an Apple product is seen as a luxury in India and affordability has always been a pain point. However, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Apple has seen a growing demand in India. And though the company only has five percent market share, it sees this as a “glass half-full” kind of a situation.

On his recent five-day trip to India Apple CEO Tim Cook met industry veterans, government officials, athletes, celebrities and influencers, and inaugurated the company’s first retail stores in the country. “I’m very bullish on India,” Cook said during a recent earnings call.

The iPhone has charted a growth trajectory in India despite the fact that it is a price-sensitive market with a large customer base for Android smartphones. This growing acceptance could be the result of Apple focussing on growing its operations in India and boosting local manufacturing. Apart from giving a boost to the retail business this year, Apple has been putting in a lot of effort in growing its manufacturing in India due to growing geopolitical concerns and supply chain issues with China. The company has also been offering better financing options to customers.

“There’s been a lot done from financing options and trade-ins to make products more affordable and give people more options to buy. And so there’s a lot going on there. We are, in essence, taking what we learned in China years ago and how we scale to China and bringing that to bear,” Cook said in the December quarter earnings call in February 2023.

Research firm Counterpoint predicts that by 2025, 18-20 percent of all iPhones globally will be made in India, a huge step up from its production at around three percent in 2021 and five percent in 2022. In terms of opportunities and tapping the market, experts suggest that India is what China was for Apple a couple of decades ago.

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