Apple Targets India For Online, Retail Push

Apple will push retail online and in person in India.

Apple‘s annual shareholder meeting at the Steve Jobs Theater on Wednesday (Feb. 26) addressed expansion plans in India, and the effects of the coronavirus, among other things.

The tech giant is planning to open an online store in India later this year, according to CEO Tim Cook. Apple will also open a brick-and-mortar store in the country next year, the first to be opened there.

For years, Apple has relied on third-party sellers, stores and marketplaces to peddle its wares in India. However, Cook said he had become a “huge believer” in the opportunity offered in India, calling the vibrancy and demographics “unparalleled.”

India is possibly the final untapped market for growth among American tech firms, but it has proved to be confusing for many companies. While the population is large, and the market continues to report growth, individuals in the country often can’t afford Apple products — most smartphones in the country go for $150 or lower, according to data from research firm Counterpoint.

A challenge for Apple in particular has been the heavy import duty that New Delhi puts on electronic items, which has made the iPhone even more expensive for Indian residents, since Apple passes on the additional costs to customers.

The company has attempted to broaden its reach there, such as by reducing the prices of its handsets and urging the government to provide it with tax breaks. Since that didn’t materialize, Apple moved to another solution, and started making its products in India, where New Delhi provides incentives for companies doing work locally.

Now, two years into that process, the tech giant is working with contractors Foxconn and Wistron on locally made iPhones, which has managed to lower the costs on everything except the current model. The strategy has paid off, as Apple sold around 925,000 iPhones in India in the quarter ending December of 2019.

Apple has been working to provide lower-cost versions of its products all over the world, as it attempts to broaden its reach. The lower-cost phone in production will have the same processor as current flagship iPhone 11, but will lack the Face ID biometric authorization.

Cook said at the shareholder meeting that the coronavirus has been a challenge for the tech giant as well. It has had the effect of closing down factories, as people were quarantined, and work was stalled across China. For Apple, which operates in the country to produce hundreds of millions of its signature iPhone devices per year, this has caused problems.

Apple announced earlier this year that its quarterly projections would not be up to the standard it previously estimated. The forecast was for $63 billion this quarter, and the company has blamed this on supply constraints and lost retail numbers. Since that projection, Apple has reopened 30 of the 42 stores it operates in China, with suppliers and mass assembly partners slowly getting back to usual operations.

Shareholders at Wednesday’s meeting voted to defeat a measure that would require Apple to report whether it “publicly committed to respect freedom of expression as a human right,” particularly regarding to China. Other defeated proposals included one tying executive pay to environmental metrics, and another would have dealt with proxy access.

Three proposals were approved, relating to the election of directors, the ratification of appointments for independent registered public accounting firms and advisory vote to approve executive compensation.