This is a critical test for Apple’s international sales team, one that they seem to be failing.
During a weeklong trip to India two years ago, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told just about every employee, politician, and Bollywood star he saw that the country was central to his plans. During a July 31 earnings call, he barely mentioned it. Behind the scenes, though, he’s been working to remold Apple’s failing India strategy, according to current and former Apple employees.
Michel Coulomb, a well-regarded veteran Apple executive, parachuted in from Singapore to oversee its India operation at the end of last year. In June, having forced out three top sales executives, Coulomb spent three days with senior employees from throughout India at Apple’s sales and marketing headquarters in Gurugram, a tech hub south of New Delhi.
He and other executives laid out a strategy to rekindle iPhone sales that focused on better retail deals with higher sales targets, the establishment of Apple stores in India, an overhaul of the company’s relationships with independent retailers, and improved apps and other services aimed more closely at Indians, including a revamped version of Apple Maps by 2020, according to people familiar with the presentation…
None of this will make much difference if Apple doesn’t understand its customers. For years, Indian consumers have complained that Siri can’t process their requests in local languages, they have no access to Apple Pay, and Apple Maps can’t give them turn-by-turn directions or identify points of interest. The 2020 revamp is supposed to fix Maps’ failings, say the people familiar with Apple’s plans, but so far, the Maps development office the company set up in Hyderabad in 2016 has mostly been used for editing map data in other parts of the world.
My take: This is a critical test for Apple’s international sales team, one that they seem to be failing. It’s good to see Tim Cook cracking heads, but it’s still not clear to me who’s in charge. Coulomb, who replaced Sanjay Kaul as head of India in December, is the DRI (directly responsible individual). But he still reports to Hugues Asseman, who has overseen India—along with Europe, the Middle-East and Africa—out of London since 2011.