Has Apple Set a New Playbook in India?

Looks like a new arms race has started in prime real estate. Apple has reportedly made an “exclusive zone” deal with Jio World Drive mall in Mumbai to ensure that none of the major brands are within the vicinity of its Apple Store. This news comes close on the heels of another deal it has struck up in the CBD area in Bangalore, where it has picked up 1.16 lakh sq ft of space, among the largest in this micro-market.

Come to think of it, Apple is one of the last big brands to set up its footprint in India – the other being Tesla, which is not yet present. For a long time, it was as if India did not exist for Apple. However, with Apple sales figures showing robust growth year after year, all of this has changed.

Last September, Reuters reported that Apple is looking at moving a quarter of its production to India. What does this actually mean? Apple manufactures 95% of its iPhones, iPads, iPods in China, and moving a quarter of that to India means a huge deal. If we were to read this last year, it would come across as aspirations of a wannabe manufacturing hub, but now Apple is building its base in India.

What does this mean for others? Going by news agencies that are allegedly privy to the deal, about 22 brands cannot have a presence or even display ads in the mall, and the list includes Microsoft, LG, Amazon, Facebook, Sony, and Google.

Microsoft has taken a moral and technical high ground with ChatGPT, and it need not worry about such deals. It also has a strong presence across India. Facebook seems to be trying to find its way out of its Metaverse dreams and is now not sure whether it will come out with its much-touted Headsets, which would transport every individual on the street into the Meta’s Metaworld. Google, though bitten by the shortcomings of its Bard, has already got every Indian’s attention with Android and does not have to rely on such exclusivity zones. Its rivals like LG, Amazon, and Samsung need to worry. We are surprised that Samsung does not figure in this short list, but we haven’t seen the full list. If anyone can rival Apple in terms of hardware, then it is Samsung.

For Apple, getting an exclusive zone is more of a power-play than a competitive advantage. In fact, one marketer preferring to remain anonymous said that in a high street, it is better to stand tall among competitors rather than stand alone.

We believe that Apple’s deal is like a playbook for many. We had seen companies building large campuses to ensure they had the best presence to attract the best talent. This retail power play is new in India. Let us wait and watch.