Apple had recently put in a request with the Indian government to allow it to import refurbished iPhones to India. We were jubilant at the proposal since it would have meant cheaper iPhones for us.
Unfortunately, the government has rejected Apple’s plea!
The ride had not been smooth for Apple right from the very beginning. As soon as it submitted the proposal, the local “lobby” threw up an uproar of disagreement. Citing various reasons from “hurting local manufacture” to “hurting domestic market”, the lobby furiously opposed the plan.
We’d hoped that the plan would still be approved, mostly because we had seen Tim Cook hobnobbing with PM Narendra Modi. But not even that level of political access was able to buy Apple the tiniest amount of policy leeway!
Why did it matter to Apple?
For Apple, this was the surest way to claim some market share in the highly profitable mid-range smartphone category. iPhones available at half the prices would have attracted a lot of first-time customers.
Apple would have later converted this user base (or a part thereof) into loyal followers of the brand. Especially with the disastrous performance of the iPhone SE, the refurbished phone proposal had become even more necessary for Apple.
Why did it matter to us?
Two words: Price and Experience.
Of course, the lower price would have helped. But that’s not all we’ve lost out on.
A lot of people in India are still not familiar with the Apple ecosystem. They have never used an iOS device and don’t personally know anyone who does. It makes them unsure of iOS devices. That uncertainty inhibits them from buying the device even when they might be able to afford it.
A refurbished phone would have been an easy solution for those looking to experience iOS for the first time, without burning a hole in their pockets, of course!
What’s the way forward?
Apple has a Herculean task ahead. In the face of declining global iPhone sales, it is imperative that Apple does well in India.
For now, Apple needs to swallow the bitter pill of this loss and focus its energies on the two most lucrative projects in pipelines:
- Setting up a local manufacturing unit, and
- Bringing the iconic Apple Store to India
Truth be told, we’re a little heartbroken that Apple didn’t get the permission to sell refurbished phones in India. But we hope the company’s luck turns soon and it sees happier days ahead.