Apple's move to boost number of stores selling its brand in India over the next two years suggests there may be truth to the rumors that Apple is developing a cheaper iPhone.
According to sources quoted in the Economic Times, Apple has aggressive growth plans for India and believes the best way to boost demand for its products is to increase its retail footprint.
Unlike in the US, UK, China and Brazil, Apple does not have its own network of Apple retail stores in the country and relies instead on a group of dedicated franchisees who run a number of Apple exclusive stores called Apple Premium Resellers. "After the success of iPhone, Apple has finally realised that India is a big market and needs separate focus," a Mumbai-based Apple franchisee told the Economic Times, on condition of anonymity.
These plans include refitting the existing 65 stores so that their look and feel mirrors that of Apple's own stores, increasing the number of concessions it has within larger retailers and encouraging existing franchisees to extend their operations. One, Reliance Retail, which is currently Apple's largest premium reseller in India, is according to the report, already planning to expand the number of Apple stores from 20 at present. "After consolidating our operations, we are currently looking at several properties for Apple stores. The existing stores and newer ones will be remodeled with newer fixtures that Apple uses in some of its best stores internationally to provide a far superior consumer experience," Brian Bade, CEO at Reliance Digital, is quoted as saying.
India is a ‘price sensitive' market and therefore Apple's products are out of reach for much of the country's population. The iPhone has performed well in India but much of its success is down to the payment plan that the company offers that allows potential owners to buy the device in installments. The popularity of the payment plan has prompted the company to offer a similar arrangement for the iPad.
Such rapid growth is being seen by many as proof that Apple is going to launch a ‘cut-price' or entry-level iPhone within the next year to cement its position in emerging markets such as India, Brazil and, to a lesser extent, China. Though Apple is currently enjoying success in each of these markets, so is its closest rival, Samsung. The latest rumors surrounding a cheaper iPhone point to the use of white polycarbonates -- like those used to build the original iPod -- rather than of aluminum alloys and ceramics as well as a smaller, non-HD display. However, as usual, Apple has refused to confirm or deny reports and no one will know for certain until the company sends out press invites to a launch event.