Things are going from bad to worse for Apple in India

Dark days?
Dark days?
Image: Reuters/Aly Song
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The world’s second-largest smartphone market isn’t exactly turning out to be the next China for Apple.

Despite its increased focus on India, Apple is all set to see a slower year-on-year growth in iPhone sales in the country in 2018.

“iPhone India sales were weak in the first half of 2018, and even if they show a big jump in the traditionally strong second half, Apple will still fall short of last year,” Neil Shah, research director at market analytics firm Counterpoint Research, told Bloomberg.

Apple has been struggling in India for some time now. In the year ended March 2017, its revenue growth fell to 17%, compared to 53% a year ago. This six-year-low growth was mainly due to a high base and a drop in the average selling price of each phone.

Apple’s biggest struggle in India has been its high price points. iPhones cost between Rs35,000 ($500) and Rs80,000 ($1,100) in India, compared to the average smartphone price of $157 in the country.

Meanwhile, Chinese companies like Xiaomi and OnePlus have flooded the market with affordable handsets, toppling even market leader Samsung. ”Apple has a mere 2% share of smartphone shipments in (the) India market and 98% of the market has been warming up and becoming deeply entrenched in the Android ecosystem,” said Karn Chauhan, research analyst for mobile devices at Counterpoint Research.

While Apple has been trying to bring down prices by pushing older models and assembling the iPhone SE locally, it has had no luck so far with selling refurbished phones.

iPhones have, in fact, become costlier as India increased import duty on mobile phones, Chauhan said. Many of Apple’s rivals have begun local assembly, helping them evade these levies.

Amid all this, the company is seeing a massive churn in its India leadership.

Last December, India head Sanjay Kaul quit after a six-year stint. The company has now reportedly lost three more of its top executives, Bloomberg reported on July 15: national sales and distribution chief, Rahul Jain; head of commercial channels Jayant Gupta, and head of telecom carrier sales, Manish Sharma.

The company is also overhauling its India sales team, Bloomberg said, quoting unidentified sources. Apple declined to comment on these exits.