Apple’s iPhone Sales Grow By As Much As 400% In 3 Months In India, But There’s A Huge Gap To Close

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Apple’s next big growth market could be India – a country where it has failed to find significant purchase with consumers up until this point. The Economic Times (via @ScepticGeek) is reporting that sales of Apple devices, with iPhones leading the way, rose by between 300 and 400 percent in the past quarter. That growth, identified by research firm IDC, is likely being propelled by Apple’s distribution partnerships with Redington and Ingram Micro.

According to Convergence Catalyst founder Jayanth Kolla in conversation with the Economic Times, Apple’s strategy in India mirrors the route it took to success in China; the company spent time studying the market, learned what it needed to do to sell handsets in India and then got aggressive about executing its sales strategy. Apple’s India team grew by 500 percent in six months to help make that happen, going from 30 to 150 people, Kolla says.

Apple’s strategy in India hasn’t involved fielding a lower cost device, but it has included making its iPhone more attainable for cost-conscious buyers. That’s being done through installment-based payment schemes operated through its resale partners, including one with TheMobileStore, a national Indian retail chain, which that company’s CEO says has helped increase sales of Apple gadgets three-fold in the past year.

Three- or four-fold growth in a single quarter is definitely impressive, but Apple has to make up a considerable gulf in India. According to recent figures from IDC, Samsung had a 46 percent market share in India between July and September 2012, and Apple didn’t even show up in the top five, with HTC rounding out that crowd with a relatively small 6.6 percent. Browsing stats show that Apple has only a tiny percentage of current mobile web traffic in the country, and the most recent IDC numbers for mobile operating systems show a meager 1.4 percent share of sales in the July through September 2012 quarter.

Last year, during an Apple quarterly conference call, CEO Tim Cook said that while he “love[s]” India, he said they didn’t see much opportunity there in the short-term and would be focusing on other market where there was more growth potential for the time being. Part of the reason for his hesitation was the distribution system in that country, he said at the time. But a fresh injection of local Apple staff, and a distribution model that is beginning to find its legs could signal that Cook and Apple are finally willing to put in the time and effort to grow their presence in India, where there is reportedly currently less than 10 percent smartphone penetration.