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Apple CEO Tim Cook to reportedly meet Airtel, Vodafone to discuss tie ups for local distribution and sales

Airtel and Vodafone can help Apple expand its reach in India with their respective retail chains across the country


Apple CEO Tim Cook is currently visiting India and is expected to travel to multiple cities to make some major announcements. One of the first announcements Apple has already made is launch of an app design and development accelerator in Bengaluru. Besides focus on Make in India and single brand retail stores, Apple is also looking to team with local telecom partners to expand its base in India. Later this week Tim Cook and his team are said to be meeting Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal, Tata Group Chairman Cyrus Mistry, Vodafone India CEO Sunil Sood and Tata Consultancy Services CEO N Chandrasekaran, ET reports.

It is no longer a hidden fact that Apple is looking at a bigger pie of India’s burgeoning smartphone market. Despite slowdown in the West, Apple has seen an impressive 56 percent growth in India. Tim Cook has already said that India will be holding key for its success in the near future. India despite being a mammoth smartphone market still grapples with slower Internet connectivity, while 4G still is in its early stages. Entry-level and budget smartphones claim the majority of stake of the smartphone market.

Tim Cook’s meeting with top telecom operators is likely to touch upon these issues. According to the report, the two sides will also discuss partnerships for the distribution and sale of devices. “The distribution network will purely focus on 4G devices to push adoption of 4G services, which is of interest to Apple since currently it reaches around 10,000-odd outlets and it wants to make deeper inroads in India along with the services,” ET quotes as an official as saying.

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The meetings seem to be in line with Tim Cook’s vision for boosting iPhone sales in India in the wake of expansion of 4G networks. “The thing that (has) held not only us back, perhaps but some others as well, is that the LTE rollout in India just really began this year, and so we’ll begin to see some really good networks coming on in India. That will unleash the power and capability of the iPhone in a way that an older network, a 2.5G, or even some 3G networks, would not do,” Tim Cook had said in a conference call last month.

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Apple may root for the US-like carrier-locked iPhones along with easy upgrade plans in India. The carrier-locked smartphones in the US are highly subsidized and allow Apple to have higher sales of its iPhones. In India, Apple does have tie ups with telecom operators but those don’t really bring down the price. At this moment this is mere speculation.

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What seems highly likely is partnerships for wider distribution of iPhones across retail chains of the telecom operators like Airtel and Vodafone. Apple has already plans to open single brand retail chains in India and is likely to get the government permission for the same as well. But the company is likely to more benefit from the smaller outlets, for which it may take a really long time to set up on its own. Telcos like Airtel and Vodafone can help address this issue for now.

  • Published Date: May 18, 2016 5:00 PM IST
  • Updated Date: May 18, 2016 6:20 PM IST