During Apple’s quarterly earnings call earlier this week, CEO Tim Cook announced that iPhone sales in India grew by 55 percent year on year. That might sound like much if one were to think that Apple started from a relatively smaller installed base. But what if someone told you that one out of every two smartphones priced above Rs 30,000 is an iPhone? Also Read - Apple iPhone 13: Here's everything you must know about the next-gen iPhonesAlso Read - Apple's 2021 MacBook Pro to sport iPhone 12-like flat-edged design: Ming-Chi Kuo
According to IDC’s Q4, 2013 numbers, Apple had 1.7 percent market share by volume and 7.3 percent market share by value of the total smartphone market in India. However, the numbers change drastically if we take a look at smartphones priced above $500 (Rs 30,000), which is the price segment that Apple operates. In smartphones priced above $500, Apple accounted for 42.8 percent by value and 40.6 percent by volume. Or in other words, almost one out of every two smartphones priced above Rs 30,000 in India was an iPhone. IDC is yet to announce numbers for Q1 2014, where it expects Apple’s performance to be even better. Also Read - Apple removes feature in macOS that allowed apps to bypass its firewall and VPNs
“Apple dominates the market as far as high-end smartphones are concerned. In fact, other vendors are hardly present there and Samsung too is struggling there,” said Manasi Yadav, senior market analyst, IDC India. “Apple has managed to maintain its premium image in the market. Instead of slashing prices of the iPhone, it has offered good buyback schemes.”
This wasn’t the case a couple of years earlier. It was thought that Apple was not serious about India as it only sold the iPhone through its carrier partners and did not have any significant presence in stores. However, that changed before the launch of the iPhone 5 when Apple decided to distribute the iPhone on its own and appointed Redington and Ingram Micro as its distributors. Soon Apple also started selling the iPhone in open market just like every other smartphone player.
However, the real push happened with the launch of iPhone 5S, which was priced upwards of Rs 53,000. Not being able to control the price, Apple India kicked off an aggressive sales strategy with unique buyback schemes offering a “minimum” price for the buyer’s old smartphone. It also launched a high impact marketing campaign taking over the front page of most national dailies over the weekend, FM radio ad spots and outdoor hoardings. And it seems this is just the beginning.
Yadav believes that there is very little other brands can do to compete in this price segment. “Only Samsung, Sony and HTC have a presence in this price segment,” she said. But when buyers think about spending this kind of money, they tend to buy an iPhone because it has that premium value attached to it. “No other brand has the fan base that is willing to spend that much money as soon as a new model comes out. That is unique to Apple,” she added.
With Apple expected to launch the iPhone 6 with a bigger display, it is just going to become even more difficult for competition to catch up.