Apple 'proud to support Indian customers and their communities' – but maybe not so much for COVID-slammed retailers

Online Apple store comes to India even as millions remain in containment zones

Apple will grace India with its online store, at just the moment that local bricks and mortar retailers need trade they can get.

The store, which will include both English and Language options, will launch on September 23, just before the traditional Diwali festive season. Apple will offer the full range of products in the store, as well as a local customer service centre.

The opening follows the Indian government’s easing of rules last month that forced companies such as Apple to source 30 per cent of their production locally. Apple, which sources most of its components from outside India, has lobbied the Indian government to change that requirement.

“We’re proud to be expanding in India and want to do all we can to support our customers and their communities,” said Deidre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people, in a statement.

But the iPhone maker’s timing couldn’t be worse for local resellers who have been hit hard by Covid restrictions. In April, Apple was forced to cover rents and salaries for some retailers for two months to help them get through the worst of it. But the new online store opening, coupled with the acceleration of the virus in India, could see many of these resellers shutting their doors for good.

India is currently operating thousands of "containment zones" in neighborhoods known to have been exposed to COVID-19 cases. Such zones are patrolled to enforce a strict lockdown that sees basic foodstuffs delivered to residents, although delivery riders are allowed to ply their trade.

Despite operating in the country for over 20 years, Apple is not a big player on the local smartphone scene. One reason for this is that many of the company’s products are often too expensive for the average Indian consumer. An iPhone SE, which is assembled in India, costs ₹42,500 ($580) compared to the ₹2,999 ($41) India's largest mobile carrier charges for its JioPhone2.

But that looks to be changing. Between October and December last year, Apple was one of the fastest growing brands in India thanks to increased domestic production and price cuts to the iPhone XR, according to Counterpoint Research. ®

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