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How Apple won fans in India

My tryst with Apple began in 2000 when as a fresh-faced sales rep, I had to rush to a meeting with a client and my laptop crashed.

business Updated: Jan 23, 2011 22:21 IST
Raj Menon

My tryst with Apple began in 2000 when as a fresh-faced sales rep, I had to rush to a meeting with a client and my laptop crashed.

There was only one spare machine available — the spanking new tangerine iBook that had just been delivered for the big boss. Fortunately, I work for a company where sales precede designation.

I vividly remember the presentation I made. The client spent more time touching and feeling the machine than giving me details on the campaign. I used the iBook to break the ice with several clients. Apple products were like the hot chicks you wanted to but never could afford to take out. They were the preserve of creative directors and not for ordinary mortals.

All that changed when Steve Jobs introduced the iPod. All of us who loved music couldn’t resist buying one. Who cared if there were cheaper media players in the market.

I still remember arguing with the accountant in my office who felt that I was throwing away good money because my mobile phone could carry all the music I wanted to listen to. But the fact was that I could finally afford to own an Apple at Rs 15,000.

Fast forward to 2010. My house is replete with Apple products: a Macbook, an iPod, an iTouch and the new baby, the iPad. What Apple did very smartly was introduce products at lower price points. One couldn’t dream of spending over Rs 1 lakh (about US $2000) for an Apple notebook when a WinTel equivalent was available for a third.

Like me, most Indians started out with the iPod. It was beautifully designed and it ‘just worked’ (my iPod, now over six years old, still works flawlessly, something that I can’t say about my mobile phones). Besides, it has tremendous badge value. Once you start appreciating the product, you gradually move up the value chain.

The lessons are obvious for Indian marketers:

n Affluent Indians, like their global counterparts, are willing to pay more for truly innovative products. Steve Jobs has realised that delivering a path-breaking product at the right price point enables Apple to make a lot of money. According to experts, Apple makes a 50% margin on every product it sells.

n Indians want better products. They don’t pay for their music — they get it free. While logically, any music player should have done well, the fact is that music players never caught on in India till the iPod happened. It is the hottest selling player. Affluent Indians just can’t get enough of the shiny piece of glass to flaunt.

n Don’t take Indians for granted. If Micromax or Lava or some other local manufacturer had started shipping Android phones earlier, a number of established brands would have been hard pressed, and maybe even wiped out.

It’s been three-four years since the iPhone made its debut and the world’s largest mobile phone maker still doesn’t have one that holds a candle to it.

The writer is COO,