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“If you bury an iPhone in the ground, a customer will dig it out and leave money there,” says a mobile-phone retailer in New Delhi, describing the surge in demand for the flagship Apple product over the past year. 

iPhone shipments to India doubled to ~six million units in 2021 and are expected to cross seven million units in 2022, according to Tarun Pathak, research director at market-research firm Counterpoint Research.

Analysts say multiple factors, such as the proliferation of easy financing options and the post-pandemic “revenge buying”, have been driving iPhone sales in the country. 

During the festive season of Diwali demand for electronics, including smartphones, peaks in the country. But the festive season hasn’t been the same for brick-and-mortar outlets selling smartphones—key to Apple’s success in the country—as e-commerce platforms gained precedence during the pandemic. This year also brought on an entirely new challenge for these stores.

“We ran out of iPhones, especially iPhone 13, way too early. I don’t even remember how many customers I had to send back,” says the retailer, who had ample stock of premium smartphones from other phone makers, such as Samsung. The premium segment in India consists of smartphones costing over Rs 30,000 (~US$400). 

In order to fulfil the demand and protect their margins, smartphone retailers say that they had to resort to buying iPhones from e-commerce sites, which sell them for much cheaper. 

The Ken spoke to five standalone smartphone retailers, and all recounted the same tale. They and multiple executives quoted in this story declined to be named as they didn’t want to jeopardise their relationship with Apple. Apple declined to participate in the story.

Prices of Apple products in India are among the highest in the world due to steep import duties and taxes. The flagship iPhone 14 Pro starts at Rs 1.3 lakh (US$1,600)—which is almost as much as India’s per capita income income Business Standard India at 75: Here's how much our per capita income has zoomed since 1950 Read more

Analysts, larger electronics retailers, and e-commerce executives concur that the demand for iPhones has skyrocketed in the country due to the availability of credit-card equated monthly instalments (EMIs) and small personal loans. They have made premium devices affordable for Indians across income groups.

This has directly translated into a 45% surge in Apple’s India revenue to an all-time high of Rs 33,381 crore (~US$4 billion) in the year ended March 2022. Analysts estimate that as much as four-fifths of it came from iPhone sales. 

In comparison, Apple’s global revenue rose just 8% to $394.3 billion in the year ended September 2022.

AUTHOR

Soumyajit Saha

Soumyajit covers the operations of Big Tech companies and OTTs in India. Before The Ken, he covered equity and currency markets in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand for Reuters. You can hit him up via email about anything, except money he allegedly owes you.

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