The Indian smartphone market is poised for a great leap in the days ahead. And it’s not just smartphones, but even associated services, software and applications, Virtual reality and gaming that will witness a spurt in demand. While foreign smartphone majors have been very keen to grab a share of the revenue pie, they have been required to surmount major hurdles along the way. Noteworthy of mention are two instances where the India Government turned down applications by technology giants Facebook and Apple which would have have effectively allowed them to gain a strategic foothold.
There has been much talk about Facebook’s failed attempt to introduce its version of free internet, popularly referred to as Free Basics. Most would unanimously agree that Facebook went out all out to woo the Indian audience into accepting Free Basics, except that they might have failed to target the very section for whom it was intended for, in the first place. In keeping with styles that behemoths are known to adopt, Facebook unleashed the full power of popular media-billboards put up at major streets, full page advertisements emphasising the ‘golden’ initiative-and to top it all, Facebook CEO, Marcus Zuckerberg’ himself landed in the country to brief the media and industrialists about the nitty-gritties of the whole Program.
The main idea behind Free Basics was opening up a portion of the greatest network on the planet, namely, the Internet, to a large part of the populace without them having to spend a penny on it. This out-of-ordinary idea which could have been mistaken as a philanthropic endeavour by Facebook in the beginning, had all the makings of a game-changer. While definitely having strategic implications for the California-based major, experts had serious concerns as regards its impact on other internet providers in the country. General apprehensions arose and these were vociferously discussed on social media platforms trending under the hashtag, net neutrality.
Unfortunately for Facebook the telecom regulatory authority in India, TRAI ruled against the company, thereby lending the death blow to the Free Basics program.
The Apple issue is very distinct as compared to the Facebook one, in that, it doesn’t propose to introduce something revolutionary, but something which may as well play a role in altering market dynamics. Coming to the specifics, Apple was looking forward to introducing used phones in the country; unfortunately, though, it has had its application rejected twice by the Indian Government. Interestingly, this has happened in the backdrop of rising sales that the company has been witnessing for its products in the country. The recent quarterly reports had indicated a 36% surge in iPhone sales in the country, though they still constitute a very tiny fraction of the global sales that the company enjoys for its products.
The prospects look bright for Apple in a country where LTE services have been rolled out, of late, but it is still eons away from being a dominant player in the Indian market. The first revenue drop in iPhone sales reported by the Cupertina-based major coupled with the denial of permission to sell refurbished phones in India is sure enough cause for concern, but it remains to be seen whether the company would be able to extract anything fruitful from the proposed meeting of its CEO Time Cook with the Indian Prime Minister.