Apple announced on Friday it will launch its first online store in India on September 23, marking its major step to expand in the South Asian country.
Recent conflict between China and India appears to have opened opportunities for non-Chinese smartphone companies to expand their market share in India.
The Indian smartphone market is dominated by Chinese companies like Xiaomi and Oppo that have used affordable prices to win over Indian consumers.
Before now, the California-based company has used third party vendors and ecommerce operators such Amazon and Walmart to sell its products in India.
Apple accounts for only one percent of all smartphones shipment to the huge Indian market, far behind Chinese companies and South Korea’s Samsung.
Therefore, the world’s most valuable company selects September 23, which coincides with India’s holiday season to unveil its online store in the country.
Apple plans to offer more than sales through the retail platform. The company said other services on the online store will include personalizing some devices, including iPads, with engravings, and assistance will be offered in English and Hindi to allow customers to personalize their device according to their preferences. The website will also allow customers to configure Mac laptops according to their needs.
India has become a top choice destination for tech companies following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s digital economy campaign.
However, Apple’s decision to open an online store will cause disruption in India’s online retail ecosystem, particularly for brick-and-mortar retailers. The pandemic and e-tailers already have a serious bearing on them.
In May, Samsung and Facebook partnered to train over 200,000 brick and mortar stores selling its phones to use social media for sales and marketing.
While there has been an increase in online activities including smartphones sales in India, the cost of devices has become a major challenge. As part of its strategy, Samsung initiated installment-payment for its customers and incentive schemes designed to attract more consumers to its base, including offering students discounts on some devices.
Apple doesn’t seem to be ready to lower the cost of iPhones or introduce other incentives to woo consumers. Its objective seems to be about opening an online store where its customers can purchase its devices in India. So the smartphone competition will be among players who have devices for the majority poor Indians.
However, market experts believe that Samsung stand more chance to gain the market with its strategy.
“Samsung is India’s No. 2 smartphone brand after Apple by image. So a phone priced between 6,000 rupees to 15,000 rupees from Samsung is very well placed today to capture market share from Chinese rivals,” said brand strategist Harish Bijoor.
The cheapest iPhone in India costs about 31,500 rupees, while the cheapest Xiaomi is around 7,500 rupees. So the smartphone market competition is between Samsung and Chinese companies, and by extension, Jio Reliance that has partnered with Google to produce affordable smartphones en masse for poor Indians.
Apple assembles some of its smartphone models, including the iPhone 11, at Taiwanese contract manufacturers Foxconn and Wistron’s plants in south India. Foxconn plans to invest $1 billion to expand the plant.
While Samsung has a mega mobile phone manufacturing plant in New Delhi, where it tests new devices and assembles them for export.