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Is India The Next China for Apple? Tim Cook Announces New Accelerator in Bengaluru Opening Apple stores and selling refurbished phones is high on agenda

By Ritu Kochar

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The CEOs of Apple can't seem to any other other way than India when it comes to finding answers. The question, howvever, changes. One came for spiritual guidance, the other not so spiritual.

It was sometime between 1974 and 1976 that Steve Jobs went on the great Indian journey that supposedly changed his life. He went on to build Apple Inc and later became the CEO of the company known for its world class innovation. With Apple Steve Jobs changed the world.

After almost 40 years another CEO of Apple, Tim Cook is embarking on this journey to India and everyone eyes what changes this might bring. But unlike Jobs', Cook's journey is lacking the spiritual angle.

Tim Cook, who arrived last night on a five-day India visit as Apple CEO, has announced a new initiative to support engineering talent and accelerate growth in India's iOS developer community.

"India is home to one of the most vibrant and entrepreneurial iOS development communities in the world," said Tim Cook. "With the opening of this new facility in Bengaluru, we're giving developers access to tools which will help them create innovative apps for customers around the world."

In a press release, the tech giant said,"The company will establish a Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru, the home of India's startup scene. Tens of thousands of developers in India make apps for iOS, the world's most powerful mobile operating system and the foundation for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. This initiative will provide additional, specialized support for them."

"Apple's team will work to inspire and instruct developers on best practices, help them hone their skills and transform the design, quality and performance of their apps on the iOS platform."

There are reports that the Apple CEO will engage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi for a meeting. His itinerary include visits to Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Other meetings include one with Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal, besides top industry executives, employees and trade partners, sources said. He is also expected to meet senior officials from Reliance Industries. The question remains – what is he up to?

Fixing old issues

The rejection from Indian government to sell used iPhone in India wouldn't have gone unnoticed and this remains a major issue. Whether this issue will be taken up is still not clear but looking at the growth of smartphone industry in India, selling refurbished phones could help Apple in reviving its declining revenue.

Earlier this month, the government of India rejected Apple's plan of importing and selling second-hand phones in India to prevent dumping of hazardous electronic waste. Another reason behind this refusal seems to be Modi's "Make in India' initiative aimed at encouraging local manufacturing, which could receive a major backlash with used and cheaper iPhones available in the market.

This issue, if brought out, should be played with intense care by Cook. as the "Make in India' initiative is very close to Modi's heart.

Turning tables

The time has passed when Steve Jobs considered India as an insignificant market. The tables have turned now. Currently, where Apple faces the first ever decline in global sales in 13 years, in India the sales grew by 56%.

According to a report in ET, iPhone sales volumes grew 76% in India compared with 45% in Korea, the Middle East and Africa, 20% in several western European countries and 18% in mainland China, in the October-December quarter.

It is numbers like these that changes your whole business plans. Looking at this 56% growth, Cook singled out India as 'one of Apple's most important growth areas for the next decade'. Now that we have attracted Apple's attention, lets see how this opportunity is utilized.

A part of this opportunity could be Cook's plan to announce the company's plan to manufacture iPhones locally. After announcing its intent to set up retail stores in India, talks between Apple and Indian manufacturing companies have been going on. The company's largest global manufacturing partner, Foxconn, has already signed a joint-venture with the Adani Group to manufacture Apple products in the country. The plan to manufacture the premium devices locally goes hand in hand with Apple looking to set up its first retail, brand-owned outlet in the country.

This new plant will be mutually beneficial for both India and Apple. Manufacturing cost will be low for Apple and the number of jobs in India is likely to go up.

Claim a space in the Indian startup ecosystem

The Indian startup ecosystem has seen tremendous growth over the past few years . Already the third largest in the world, these startups hold great promises for the country, building a new future of India. Now with all this enthusiasm, who wouldn't want to be a part of it?

Apple has announced an accelerator program for Indian startups in Bengaluru. Their sources said, "While refurbished phones will be a major talking point, Apple will also announce initiatives tied to Startup India and Digital India. An accelerator or incubator program for startups in India is likely."

The news was confirmed this morning and has brought much excitement in the country's startup capital. The programme will work closely with Indian app developers to leverage the Mac platform, ushering in an immersive app experience. The Cupertino-based company will work with developers and entrepreneurs in Bengaluru to create more local and relevant content for the iOS ecosystem.

Another recent announcement made by Tim Cook is the launch of Apple's development center on Thursday. Hinting towards this, Telangana IT minister K.T. Rama Rao tweeted, "Will share a big news with you all day after tomorrow. Suspense till then." The facility will commence operations on one lakh square feet leased space in WaveRock, a building owned by real estate giant Tishman Speyer at Nanakramguda and further plans to expand it to 2.5 lakh square feet by next year,

In a meeting in town hall, Cook said that India is where China was 7 to 10 years ago. We agree with this but when we see that this growth of China has come at the cost of pollution, India has to make sure that they do things differently. Now it is time to see how impactful Apple will be in helping India reach where China is. How will it face one of the major constrains it faces in India of poor network infrastructure?

Tim Cook also said that he sees a "really great opportunity" in India. Time will tell how he will utilize this opportunity; time will tell how this visit of an Apple CEO will change the company, and this time, also India.

Ritu Kochar

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

Ritu used to work as a Feature writer for Entrepreneur India.

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