Apple CEO Tim Cook is in India on a four-day visit during which he has already made many significant announcements and met a lot of key players.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is in India on a four-day visit during which he has already made many significant announcements and met a lot of key players. In an interview with Nandagopal Rajan, he speaks about Apple’s plans for India and the importance of this country for his company. Edited excerpts:
How big is India in your scheme of things at the moment?
It’s huge and not just from a market point of view. We are looking at India more holistically than that. We look at it as an unbelievable source of talent for both our internal operations like R&D on maps we announced yesterday, but also as a developer population with a lot of entrepreneurs who want to develop and create apps they want to offer to the world. They don’t want to spend their lives figuring how to do that. They just want it kind of done and focus on the product. I was just meeting the Zomato guys and they are a great example. The app store sort of enabled them to offer their product — they are in 23 countries around the world — and enabled them to scale really fast. We are looking at it from that point of view.
We are obviously thinking through the supply chain piece. We had an idea with the certified pre-owned and we are working with the government on that. There is some misunderstanding if that is refurbished and it is not that at all. These are things we do in the US, Japan and pretty much every country in the world. And so that would be bring a level of operational responsibility and training into the country, which I think is really important. It is clear that we need an Apple retail presence over time, so we are working on that as well. Again, we are looking at it from many different angles and not solely from a market point of view.
Apple has been in India for many years, but it’s been a bit aloof. But now that you are trying to enter in a big way, it India playing hard to get?
No, I don’t see it that way at all. In fact, we have been here for a while, but we have sort of prioritised India as one of the top things we are working on.
What I have seen in my previous meetings with the prime minister, I felt there was a very warm reception and lots of talking about different priorities and listening. I don’t sense that at all.
You have been focusing on the services side. But in India people are not willing to pay for content. How are you going to tackle that? Are you looking at operator billing for instance?
In India, that is something we are looking at. Operator billing is something we don’t need in the US. But in India it is something the customer would want and help us move faster. We are also looking at things like bringing Apple Pay in. I met one of the key banks and tried to understand their view of mobile payments would play out. But having said that, it is important we move faster on scaling on the ability to pay in a manner that is wanted and desired by the customer.
Some people here think of certified pre-owned as dumping. What will you say to them?
It is not dumping at all. If you look at the automobile sector in many countries, there is a certified pre-owned market for Lexus, BMW and many other brands. When you buy a high-end smartphone you can the same kind of a situation there. In fact, ours is better than the automobile because we give the same kind of guarantee, as we take the product and sort of make it pristine and we are certain of the quality and that is why we pass the warranty along. It’s about recognising that we are able to provide even more people the opportunity to have our product. We have always been about creating the best products that enrich people’s lives, we can do that even better if we can reach more people. Again, we do this in many other countries, not just India.
How will you counter the popularity of cheap Chinese phones in India? Is certified pre-owned the counter in the price ranges where India has great volume? Or will you make something to cater to those segments?
We are about making the best products and we are not going to lower the bar and say we will reduce our standard to make another product. That is not who we are and that is not something our customers expect from us. So the pre-owned market allows us to reach customers who really want and Apple device but can’t really reach that point. I think it is great for people, or otherwise we wouldn’t we doing it. If we were not proud of the product, we wouldn’t be doing it.