It happened again. Apple dumps its stock of soon-to-be-obsolete iPads in India a full year after its launch in the US market, confirming yet again that for them, India is just a dumping ground for obsolete iProducts, lowest on their radar and they are totally so not interested in the booming Indian telecom and IT market where other global giants are hungrily jumping in.
Yes, Apple stores are present in India, but servicing is done in Singapore. The iPad was released in Uganda before it was in India, and the iPhone 4 is available in Tunisia, but is yet to surface in India. iStore India was down for 15 days which if had happened in the US, would have caused Egypt-like riots. It is almost like Indians should be content lapping up the iCrumbs Steve Jobs throws at them from his iThrone. Puzzled pundits, frustrated fanboys, market watchers and others ask: “Mr. Steve Jobs, what do you have against India? Why this 'iIgnore' policy?”
I would say: "Apple does not think there is an appetite for the mass consumer for luxury iProducts in the hyper competitive, price sensitive, fragmented, chaotic, loyaltyless and channel driven Indian market". In other words, India is not a worthy iMarket, there are not enough fanatics. It is either that or Jobs still thinks we are all elephants and snake charmers. I don't think the latter is the case because apart from being a marketing God, Jobs is a shrewd businessman. Believe me, if there is money to be made they will sell in Antartica, let alone India.
(It is also possible that he is still seriously pissed off at something that happened to him during his backpacking days in India seeking 'spiritual enlightenment' in the mid 1970s. Maybe he got conned by a godman or was forced to travel by Air India.)
Apple is like no other. Be it design, ads, colors, interfaces, technology and what not, Apple sets trends and breaks them. Over the years, Apple's product philosophy has been based on three things: sharp and uncluttered line-up, fierce loyalty and cult following and it's propreitory grip on everything. These, along with mesmerizing design and interfaces has made Apple what it is today. And the company vehemently refuses to dilute any of these, something that they will have to do if they have to be successful in markets like India. A combination of these three has made Apple products not in sync for India, along with pricing, maybe the biggest factor.
Apple Product Line up - Focused and uncluttered
Comparing with Samsung or Nokia, have you noticed how many mobile phone products Apple has? One. Just one, the iPhone. Samsung has more Galaxys and Corbys than you could probably remember, while Nokia makes maximum use of alphabets and numerals to release an endless stream of products. Apple has One computer product: the iMac, One notebook brand the MacBook. Just like the gleaming chiseled products it has, it's product lineup is also uncluttered, sharp and clean. One product alone may never work in a mass selling environment like India.
Apple's Loyalty Cult - The fanboy movement
Apple is not just a company or a brand, but a cult. Steve Jobs demands intense, unadulterated loyalty. This culture of loyalty is followed by it's consumers (fanboys) who will camp out in front of Apple stores days before the product is released to be the first ones to buy it. This is what keeps Apple on the top of the heap. Jobs knows this and would cater to them first, before to anyone else in the world. The average and majority Indian consumer takes no truck with cultism or loyalty. (Showoff does not mean loyalty) And Jobs does not want Apple to become just another brand.
Apple's Firm Grip on Everything about it's Products
You cannot open an Apple product, period, Apple keeps it's vice like grip on it's products and consumer. No changing SIMs or batteries, no fiddling for the RAM or HDD. No cracked software, no pirated OS. You want anything? Buy from the iStores. The Indian technology market, ubiquitous with pirated Windows OS and cracked software, presence of a strong open-source movement, custom computer configurations, mobile phones with replaceable batteries and multiple SIM cards, content transfered drag-and-drop through Bluetooth and removeable memory, does not take kindly to Apple's tight propreitory restrictions. ("Why should I buy a phone if I can't even remove it's cover?")
Pricing - Reach for the Stars!
It is when you look at the prices that you feel that the guy really hates India. Prices range from borderline #WTF to holy shit ridiculous. For instance, the 'ancient' iPhone 3GS 32 GB costs a whopping Rs.41,500 ($900) in India, $200 more than what a US customer pays for an unlocked one. (iPhone 4 is not yet released in India, maybe because iPhone 5 will not be released soon). The 64 GB 11' MacBook Air costs a full 15,000 INR ($330) more than in the US. If Apple really does not want to sell in India, they should declare that and keep out instead of sending out such subtle signs.
Multi-SIM phones and cracked software aside, we change brand loyalties faster than an Indian politician changes his statements. We are very price sensitive, and paying for apps and music is an absolute no-no. If Apple really wants to sell en-masse in India, they will have to come up with a Rs.15,000 iPhone with dual SIM support, 3 MP camera, removeable memory and Bluetooth. And they don't want to do that, iSuppose. And call rates in India and the market structure will never support Apple's business model of network-tied phones.
All said and done, it cannot be justified why India is a dumping ground for Apple products. I believe that there is a fairly large enough market, and a couple million potential sales, if the price is right. But it looks like more of a case of Jobs wanting to maintain his fan base and public opinion in America, as Apple fans consider themselves to be uber-humans sometimes. Case in point was the much publicized scrapping of the planned technical support center in Bangalore in 2006. It touched quite some nerves.
Oh and by the way, I still havent figured out what I could do with the iPad other than playing around with non productive apps for which I have to pay money for, again. I guess this thought is shared by many others. Anyways, let us wait till Steve Jobs wakes up to India, but hopefully by that time Android will have captured the market.