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    Tim Cook on India: Highlights from an Interview

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    Varun Bhatia
    Varun Bhatia Aug 15, 2017

    Tim Cook recently gave an interview to BusinessLine where he spoke at length about his company’s presence in India, its future plans, and how he hopes to achieve them. It was a very absorbing interview, with a great deal of interesting insights surfacing through his words. Here are the views of Tim Cook on India.

    I am very bullish on India because of its people, its culture and the leadership. […] I am super impressed and optimistic. So what we are doing in India is to ramp up. We just got started on local production of iPhones and it’s very successful so far.

    Tim Cooke opened with an assurance of how very pleased he was with the environment (both financial and political) of the country. He gave special mention to Prime Minister Narendra Modi — obviously — and reiterated how all those meetings with have only bolstered his confidence in the future of his company here in India.

    After that, he moved on to the current situation of Apple in India.

    We want to continue to ramp up the production, which means more volumes and more products for us. In the accelerator, we already have hundreds and thousands of folks who have gone through it. There are now 7,50,000 iOS developer ecosystem-related jobs in India.

    Speaking of their production capacity, Tim Cook said that their immediate focus was to “ramp it up.” That’s a good sign because the more products Apple produces in India, the easier their supply chain is going to run. That invariably means lower costs in the long run.

    Cook also focused on the job-producing aspect of their operations. Such a huge organisational chain obviously requires a lot of manpower, and Apple has been employing more and more people in India. Which is again, a good sign for us. Employing locals means that we own a share of the benefits as well.

    And through their accelerator programme, Apple is focusing on skill building as well. That is perhaps their biggest contribution so far to India — creating a strong workforce of technically skilled labour that has international acceptance and demand.

    And speaking of things beneficial to India, Cook persisted with refurbished phones —

    I still believe that certified pre-owned phones will be good for India. It’s a programme that’s widely used in the US, all throughout Europe and almost every country where we sell. We just have to do a better job of explaining it and talking about the advantages.

    Despite facing a lot of hurdles while trying to convince the government about the benefits of importing refurbished products, Cook was adamant that the plan is still not off the table. We’re certainly glad to hear that. At AppleSutra, we use a lot of refurbished products bought from the US. And we can vouch for their price-effectiveness. Not to mention the fact that there’s literally no difference between refurbished and original boxed products.

    When questioned about more such plans, especially with investments in other industries in India, Cook said it’s “unusual” for them to invest in other companies. However, for some special cases, they are open to the idea.

    We are intrigued with the sharing economy, especially transportation and accommodation, like Airbnb. We thought we could help them in certain scenarios and they could help us in other areas. So, there seem to be joint benefits. If something like that presents itself in India, we would certainly look at it.

    The topic of outside investment invariably brought up a discussion of Didi Chuxing — the cab hailing service in China that won the battle with Uber because of a massive $1 billion investment from Apple.

    And speaking of China, Cook was asked if he expected India to replicate the same exponential growth curve that our neighbour produced for Apple. He said —

    Whether it will take the exact curve as China, I don’t know, but I sense several similarities. In terms of infrastructure, India was a few years behind in terms of cellular network, but the speed at which that is changing is magnificent. So I see a lot of things moving in the direction, which gives me the confidence that India has an exceptional future.

    We know that Cook was just being nice when he said we are a “few years behind” China. Because in terms of infrastructure, we are at least a decade behind. At least. 

    A lot of the success in China was because three crucial factors came together for Apple there — local production, demand, supply chain. We have the first two. Apple’s supply chain will be setup only when Apple starts its Apple Stores. Which, again, Tim Cook was very optimistic about. He said —

    We have had lots of positive discussion on that front. I do think we will have retail stores in India eventually, not tomorrow but over time.

    Cook was also very happy with their “localisation efforts” — which is basic Apple trying to make iOS more India relevant. Which is a long time coming because we have always complained that a lot of features in iOS were unusable in India. We are glad that Apple is paying attention to that aspect of development as well.

    We are bringing Hindi to dictation. We have brought cricket to Siri. After going for a cricket match during my visit to India last year, I realised that this was something we should have done already. We are also localising our keyboards within iOS. So, we are trying to think through every single way to make the user experience better for the Indian customer.

    With that, the discussion went back to the comparison with China. Cook was asked if he thinks these small changes will be enough to fight in India, where there is already steep competition. Also, if that was what they did in China? His response was –

    I don’t worry about someone else’s growth. The market in India is big enough for several brands. For us, it’s about innovation, making the best product and making the ecosystem better and better. If we do that well, more people will switch from Android to iOS. That’s what we did in China, and that’s what we are doing in India.

    After that, the discussion moved on to emerging technologies such as AR and VR. Cook was very enthusiastic about AR, but not so much about VR, calling it “too much” and “chaotic”. He was reminded of Apple’s recent foreys into industries beyond consumer tech — such as cars! He was asked if this is the new begininning of Apple, and if this the end of the old Apple. He said:

    Apple at its core is about integrating hardware, software and services together to create an experience that users love. So will Apple’s DNA change? The answer is no, but the product categories will change. Fortunately, the products that we are in now are really very good and they have a long life and lots of growth. But you can bet that we will do more and more things.

    Well, we are looking forward to all those “more and more things” for sure. Just make sure they’re a bit affordable. After all, there are only so many organs we can sell!

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