I have just returned from buying the iPhone 13. If you don’t know this about me, you should know that I am an Apple loyalist. Have been since I switched from a BlackBerry to the iPhone 4. I have upgraded my phone every year. Over the years, I have purchased most of the Apple line of products. I love Apple. I save up for the things I want to buy and I end up buying their products because of their sheer ease of use and beauty. They appeal to me. I also know it’s a very subjective choice that can lead to the most vociferous debates.
That being said, I live in India. These products are luxury products. We pay for them excessively. There are jokes that happen that question how many internal organs we must sell in order to purchase one of these phones. Of course there are those whose wallets never make a dent with these products. There are others like me who end up saving for it for the better part of a year. On top of Apple’s own price, there is an 18% Goods and Services Tax AND 30% Import Duty! So yes, the price is steep. And those who want an Apple product are punished for wanting them
Yet, in 2021, we do have reports that Apple has fared with an exceptional market performance. Apple recorded double-digit revenue growth in India and Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out that emerging markets like India, Latin America and Vietnam had shown an “exceptionally strong growth.” But despite this, there is not a single official Apple store in India!
My personal experience has dealt with unofficial retailers and official retailers, in my city of Mumbai. After two consecutive years of a lack of stock of the ‘new colours’ of the iPhones reaching the unofficial retailers, I decided to take my business to the ‘official’ retailers in the city.
Today, like the other years I have had buying experience from these official franchise venues, I had a bad experience. Let me talk of the problems that we face.
The Apple event happens. The phone is launched in a brand new colour with dazzling features – those audio visual presentations are such head turners! So the loyalists run to the nearest retailer to prebook their phones. Once the prebooking is done, one is stuck with the retailer. Then comes the launch date. People gather outside the venues. The people who have booked a nearly $2,000 phone have to wait in a chaotic fashion outside stores.
The staff of the stores are not equipped to deal with a clientele that comes from their own avenues of prestige. It is almost a class war that happens – and one can tell that the staff exert what power they have over a populi that can shelve out thousands of dollars. Moreover, in more case than one, the staff do not understand basic codes of civility. The system of queues doesn’t feature very well here – not even among the rich. Everyone wants to be entitled and civility takes a flying leap, right back to Cooke’s dinner parties.
Another thing that happens, there always is a hustle and bustle and hue and cry for the stock of the phones. Most times, the new phone with the new colour seems to never reach the retailers. Here my partner vouches his opinion: “They do this as a free marketing gimmick. They want people to raise a hullabaloo. So the mismanagement is done on purpose. How else would sales generate publicity? Apple needs to release its stock a day before the launch. Once there, the staff can make an account of who gets what. The whole process could be neater and better managed!” He well may have a point there.
So we end up with our prebooking voucher in our hands, hoping that someone will direct us to someone in the store who knows what the fuck is going on. Knowing the staff of the store also doesn’t seem to help very much. There are ingrown politics of their own going on. Heaven forbid, the person you know is on leave, or at another outlet doing his job. You will be promptly forgotten. The pull you had to get the new coloured phone will become a figment of your imagination.
I wonder if all of these dynamics will change if Apple does decide to start up their own stores in India. It will still be run by people who are inefficient and rude. It is a small scale revolution of its own going on – where the “bourgeoisie” can never be brought down because ironically they also create jobs for the “proletariats”.