This is what Apple needs to do to succeed in India in 2017

The technology giant’s efforts in India have so far been inconsistent.

The year 2016 started off on a promising note for Apple in India.

In May, CEO Tim Cook paid his maiden visit to the country. Not only did he meet with prime minister Narendra Modi but Cook also wooed the public by visiting temples, attending Bollywood parties, and watching cricket matches.

The company also struck a deal in October with Reliance Jio, an LTE mobile operator in India, which plans to roll out 4G coverage in 18,000 cities and 200,000 villages across the country in October. Apple is also setting up a distribution center on the outskirts of India’s commercial capital, Mumbai, so its products are “rarely sold out at the retail level” and they can achieve “common pricing for offline and online sales.”

But the technology giant’s efforts in India have been inconsistent.

After finally getting the much-awaited permissions to set up shop in the country, the Cupertino-based company is being elusive about when its first retail store in India will open its doors. Although iPhone sales climbed up 50% in India from the year prior, the share of iOS devices was sliced almost in half in the second quarter, down to 2.4% from an already small 4.5% a year earlier. Competition from low-cost Android alternatives is pushing the iPhone maker out of the running.

In 2017, Apple first needs to recognize the myriad India-specific challenges holding it back, and then it needs to make a more deliberate play to fix them.

Cost and competition

Despite its desirability, Apple’s unaffordable price tags remain a huge deterrent for India’s price-sensitive consumers. The iPhone’s latest model retails at around $1,000, much more than other high-end brands. The average smartphone in the country costs only $158, according to Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report.

To make matters worse, Indians pay more than the rest of Asia for Apple’s products – the iPhone 7 costs nearly $200 more in India, compared to Japan.

Apple considers India its next frontier for growth after China but India is a tougher market to crack. The South Asian country has a much lower per capita income of $1,598 compared to China’s $8,028.

“In China, [Apple was] in the right place at the right time,” Anindya Ghose, director of New York University’s Center for Business Analytics, told Quartz. “They didn’t have any major competition from the likes of Huawei or Xiaomi.”

But in India, these two brands, as well as other China-made phones – Oppo, Vivo, Gionee – have launched a slew of low and middle-priced options. Local players, such as Micromax and Lava, and South Korean giant Samsung also pose a threat to Apple’s business.

When the brand tried to combat high prices by selling cheaper, refurbished iPhones in Asia’s third-largest economy, the government shelved those efforts. India is concerned that Apple’s devices will add to the country’s abundant e-waste problems. In 2015, a proposal to import used iPhones and iPads was denied by the environment ministry’s technical review committee for the same reason.

And cheaper phones are only a partial solution. Apple needs to differentiate its product from other low-priced models consumers already have access too. The product will only have value if it is “Indianised,” said Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. He suggests making local language keyboards a standard feature on a stripped-down version of the current iPhones, as well as adding localised apps and services. “You still have the Apple logo and the elegance of the Apple [device] but at much lower price points.”

The language barrier

Indeed, if Apple wants to grow its user base beyond the upper echelons of Indian society, who are well-versed in English and aware of American brands, it needs a plan to knock down language barriers.

Siri speaks Mandarin, French, Arabic, and more but she can’t converse in Hindi – an option Google Assistant offers. “[Adding language support] would be a challenge, too, considering the diversity,” International Data Corporation research manager Kiranjeet Kaur said, referring to the fact that less than 40% of Indians speak Hindi. The solution? The company would have to focus efforts on over 20 spoken languages in the 1.3 billion strong country – like Google and Facebook are doing – especially if it wants to capture an audience beyond the country’s 125 million English speakers.

The largest domestic smartphone manufacturer, Micromax, sells regional-language-enabled devices to tap into rural India, which comprises 70% of the population. Apple, meanwhile, doesn’t even feature in the top five smartphone vendors in the country.

Misplaced efforts

Globally, services such as iTunes, Apple Music, the App Store, iCloud, and Apple Pay offer the promise of growth. In the fourth quarter of 2016, Apple’s revenue from services climbed up 24% from the year prior, raking in $6.3 billion. But in India, there has been no aggressive push for services.

“The onus falls on Apple to build a local ecosystem to cater to Indians and it doesn’t look like Apple is moving in that direction,” Kaur points out.

Apple Maps’ launch in 2012 was a botched job due to a lack of testing and erroneous data. The company set up a new office in Hyderabad this May to focus on Maps development. In mid-December, the citizens of India finally got access to live traffic data, which was already available in several markets for years.

When the company launched Apple Music in India in July 2015, it appeared serious about courting the market. What typically costs $10 per month for individual accounts – and $15 for a “family” of up to six people to share in the US – was retailing at Rs 120 and Rs 190 respectively. Still, local alternatives had Apple beat in India – music streaming apps like Saavn, Gaana, and Hungaama are all cheaper and they got a headstart in the Indian market before Apple’s 2015 launch.

Ghose recommends that Apple should “partner with some of the local app developers so that the content and features are customized to the Indian market” and take a page out of Amazon’s playbook to license deals with major movie and music studios for digital content.

In a year where Apple lost its grip on China, India’s open market could offer Apple new hope – if it just learns to compete fiercely.

This article first appeared on Quartz.

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Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and Logitech X300 Bluetooth Speaker at 58% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of and not by the Scroll editorial team.