Apple is failing spectacularly in one of the world's biggest smartphone markets

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iPhone man indiaAdnan Abidi/Reuters

  • Apple is struggling to gain market share in India, the third biggest smartphone market in the world.
  • The company has lost important sales and distribution executives in the country and, according to Bloomberg, has failed to develop important carrier relationships.
  • iPhones are especially expensive in India thanks to customs tariffs.
  • Indians prefer cheaper devices from Asian manufacturers such as Samsung, Oppo, and Vivo.


Apple is struggling to sell the iPhone in India, the third biggest smartphone market in the world, and has lost several important sales executives in the country.

According to Bloomberg, Apple's national sales and distribution chief, the head of its commercial channels and mid-market business, and the head of telecom carrier sales for India have all left. The company is reportedly restructuring its sales operations in India, in an effort to boost its market share beyond single digits.

Bloomberg cited sources who said Indian operations chief Michel Coulomb had been slow to develop key business relationships with carriers in India. Coulomb took the job at the end of last year.

Research from Counterpoint shows that Apple doesn't even rank among the top five smartphone makers in India.

Asian manufacturers rule. Samsung leads the way with 26% market share, ahead of Chinese makers Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and Huawei. All five phone makers have a much bigger suite of devices than Apple, ranging from expensive flagships to cheap entry-level phones for those connecting to the mobile internet for the first time.

Here's a graph from Counterpoint showing the most popular smartphone makers in India - Apple is nowhere to be seen:

Apple IndiaCounterpoint

According to Counterpoint, Apple's market share stood at around 2.5% at the end of 2017. It sold just 3.2 millon iPhones in India last year, while less than a million were shifted in the first half of 2018, said Counterpoint. The iPhone is especially expensive for Indians thanks to import duties.

With a population of more than 1 billion people, India is an important market for Apple to conquer. Chief executive Tim Cook made his first visit to the country in May 2016 and, two years later, acknowledged his company's "extremely low" market share.

In an earnings call in May 2018, Cook likened India to the opportunity in China. "There are obviously huge opportunities there for us and we have an extremely low share in that market overall and so we're putting a lot of energy there," he said. "It's clear that many people would be moving towards middle class over time like we have seen in other countries."

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