In India Mac is a rotten Apple

No one missed Steve Jobs more than Apple fanatics in India. Steve who came searching for salvation and some bong hits here back in the day had ignored this (and other emerging markets) for a very very long time. The fools before him, don’t merit a mention.

I left India more than a dozen years ago, and at the time, Mac was “neighbor’s envy and owner’s pride.” With PC penetration at the time abysmally low, most of the cool people had a Mac. And there were many. In an effort to get an update on the state of Apple in India, I visited PK Roy, popularly known as PKR, who is the editor of DataQuest, PC Quest and a slew of other publications in India.

PKR’s offices are in Gurgaon, where all the outsourcers are based, and over a cup of very Indian coffee, he informed me about the trials and tribulations of Apple. His comments were an eye opener. In his opinion – Apple had blown an opportunity in India. He explained that in detail, but I would get to it later. Not satisfied with one person’s opinion, I checked with few others, and got the same response.

Poor management, rapid change of strategies, bad customer support, and arrogant stuff basically has seen Apple become a non factor in the Indian PC landscape. Which is a shame, given that three of Apple’s core markets – education, media and publishing are booming in the country. There are nearly 60 television channels and most if not all use PCs. Media outlets and advertising agencies have shifted to the Windows platform. What about Bollywood and current Animation boom going on in India? Apple could have owned that, especially if it had a better team in place. And if that was not all, despite the booming economy Apple still stays out of reach of even upper middle class Indians.

The company has no clear strategy in this country, everyone laments. Even booming areas of chip design and embedded software where Apple’s shiny and cool and perfect OS-X platform can come in handy has given the Mac a pass.

For a brief while, there was a strong demand for EMacs which were right-priced for the local market, but for some strange reason, Apple decided to pull the product from the shelves. I can understand, Jobs & Co don’t want to sell those machines in the US, but in relatively poor nations, EMac is a wonderful option. People simply love it because it has everything and does not cost an arm and a leg. Why not cut prices a tad more, say by 15 percent, sell them here and in China. Hey most people have 15 inch monitors here and if you give them a 17-inch all in one EMac with a CD Burner for $999 (roughly Rs. 45,000), then you can compete with PC makers who charge around $1100) for a similar package.

In my opinion, the EMac with some beefing up (more memory and better graphics chip) and little fat trimming could help Apple gain serious market share in BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) quickly. Given that a lot of programmers reside in these four countries, exposure to Apple will have a twin effect – the sheer numbers can help increase the Apple share of the global market, and at the same time have a large pool of programmers writing code for the platform and making it even more viable in the long run.

I know people want to own this machine. Today, when I sit in a hotel coffee shop and try and do some web-logging, my PowerBook gets envious glances, but most people are too polite to disturb me. Pretty girls give my Mac a longing smile, though I have not been as lucky. Ironically, the very same people are buying similarly priced and equally cool looking (even if they use generic OS) Smasung notebooks, that cost relatively the same as a PowerBook. (Poor after sales support is to blame, most say.)

Today the best selling PC brands in India are IBM, Samsung and HP/Compaq. BenQ and Acer are being quite aggressive. But no Apple. Such a shame….what do they .. leave an Apple in the heat for a while and it starts to turn brown and stink. Steve, perhaps it is time for another trip to the east and a bit of soul searching is in order.