Response to: “how to make the iphone 3gs (and apple itself) successful in india”

Aayush a techie and a journalist in the making wrote detailed thoughts on iPhone’s failure in India. Here is what I think about the failure and the points he mentioned in his blog.

iPhone India

Aayush, most of your comments and thoughts are coming out of anger rather than rationale. Dont forget that Apple is big company and when they make a decision about something they have a lot of data and reason to back it. I will contribute my insight about Apple, iPhone and India.

1. Visual Voice Mail: First of all, voice mail itself is not mainstream in India.
Indians prefer missed calls. Airtel and Vodafone know it.
And its the Airtel and Vodafone who needs to develop required software infrastructure at their end to support voice mail. And there is a lot of patented technology involved in there. Which means a lot of royalty money if they want to license it ‘out of the box’ and I dont believe they can develop it in-house. Please note, iPhone is wildly popular in US without MMS. And I cant believe no Visual Voice Mail could be a deal breaker for Indians.

2. Indian language support: Its sad that Apple is not actively supporting Indian languages, but its definitely not the reason iPhone not selling well. When using a phone, the English terms sound more familiar than the Hindi. I have tried using Marathi on my Nokia phone, and it was hard for me to understand the meaning of many Marathi terms used on phone. I strongly believe all those who know how to read English prefer English on their phones.

3. Bluetooth: Apple has now opened the bluetooth APIs and more innovative apps using bluetooth have already started coming to iPhone. But don’t expect Apple to make it easy to pirate songs. Again, I don’t think this limitation has stopped anybody from buying an iPhone.

4. Career Lock-In: This might sound like the most important reason, but its not. Vodafone and Airtel together have 55% market share in India. And thats huge enough for iPhone to be successful. And the contract conditions are not as harsh as US and other countries. As side note, Its lot easier for Apple to ship iPhones to Airtel and Vodafone. There are no middle men, so they can keep their high profit margins intact. But I agree, the lock-in thing might be a deal breaker for many. (but not too many who appreciate iPhone’s capabilities and user experience.)

5. Service and Support: There are few things here, which I am sure you are not aware of. Last time I was in Pune and my MacBook Pro had an issue. We have Apple Authorized Service center in Pune, but guess what, they would not provide me support for my MBP, because they are only authorized for iMacs. When asked why, he mentioned that, there are not many MBPs in Pune, if we want to support MBPs, then we will have to train a resource thru Apple’s B’lore center. And they cant really afford it. So I had to run Mumbai to get my MBP fixed. My guess is same thing is happening with iPhone support. Neither they have enough expertise to support your iPhone issues nor they are authorized to do that.

6. Retail Presence: Its simple decision from Apple’s perspective. They don’t see any value in investing in retail operations in India. There is not enough money.

7.Online Presence: Yes, you asked the right question, would it be worth it?

8. iTunes Store: First of all, Indians (and Chinese) don’t pay for songs, softwares or for that matter anything in digital format. Everyone knows it. Also Apple has very less control when it comes to pricing songs and other digital media sold on iTunes. And you must know that the reports say that iTunes music store is not hugely profitable. Its there just to boost iPod/iPhone sales.

9.Advertising: All the techies and rich kids who can really afford Apple products know about Apple. Advertising might help a bit, but again is it worth it? I don’t really know.
What You Don’t Need to Do : You are absolutely wrong here. Every Indian friend I asked why he is not taking an iPhone (even if he could afford one) answered that its very expensive. And the cost is the most important reason they are not buying an iPhone. One needs to understand, the internet experience in India is pathetic. And mobile internet is more pathetic. Once mobile internet becomes fast enough and people start enjoying all the miracles an iPhone can perform with a fast internet connection, the picture will change.

India is not a big market when it comes to Smart Phones. Which other Smart Phone costing Rs.20K+ is wildly popular in India? All the Blackberrys that you see are provided by their employers. iPhone is becoming the gold standard in smart phones. But there aren’t many customers in India who want to upgrade their smart phone experience to a higher level. In this perspective, whatever Apple may do to make iPhone a success in India, its not gonna work.

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One Comment

  1. Shiva G
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    Pretty neat stuff; Apple – Vodafone/Airtel need to come up with something innovative in terms of pricing. Unless they do that; Apple and India will not be compatible.

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