Apple's share in India's smartphone market might be less than one percent, but the buzz around iPhones is almost always audible.
Since last August, when the government relaxed single-brand retail norms for foreign companies in India, consumers have been waiting for Apple to set up shop here – online and offline.
But, that might be on pause until the next few quarters.
The iPhone-maker was slated to launch its India online store by this January, and later set up its first physical store in Mumbai, and one more in Delhi-NCR.
Both have reportedly been postponed to the middle of 2020 or later to coincide with CEO Tim Cook's India visit and precede the launch of new iPhones, iPads, and other Apple devices later in the year.
This would be the Apple CEO's second visit to India since 2016. While the company is yet to issue an official word on this, multiple reports indicate that the Cupertino-based giant is still in the process of finalising its supply chain and networks in the country.
"Apple is still working on the logistics of setting up the store, with the quarter between July and September set as the new deadline," according to MacRumours.
The brick-and-mortar store could, in fact, be delayed further until 2021.
Apple versus Chinese phone brands in India
While Apple's market share in India, which recently surpassed the US as the world's largest smartphone economy, is negligible, it was one of the fastest-growing brands in Q4 2019, according to Counterpoint Research.
This growth was driven by price cuts on the iPhone XR, which was made possible due to local manufacturing.
Counterpoint stated in the report,
"2019 saw the fastest rollout of Apple’s new iPhones (11 series) in India, with aggressive pricing and a good channel strategy. In fact, the new series especially iPhone 11 was introduced at a lower price point than the last year’s iPhone XR. This has helped to gain share during the festive season and in its launch quarter in India."
In India, Apple faces stiff competition from Chinese smartphone brands, which occupy nearly three-fourths of the market. In the premium segment too, iPhones are pitched against the immensely popular OnePlus smartphones.
But, India's hugely under-penetrated market and users' continuing transition from feature phones to smartphones – something that is rare in the world – allows multiple growth opportunities to all brands.
Additionally, phone manufacturers are also tapping into ancillary services like gaming and entertainment to woo more users.
Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint, said: "We further expect brands to have multi-tier strategies involving partnerships in the mobile ecosystem from hardware, software, and services, thus creating opportunities within different segments like entertainment, gaming, financial services and more."
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)
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