Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke with NDTV’s Vikram Chandra in an exclusive interview at the Apple India office on Friday. Cook spoke about several things, from the company’s India strategy, to how much the country had influenced former Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs.
Cook said India was one of Apple’s top priorities for the next decade, and that the company was investing “enormous energy” in the country. Apple was thinking of long term prospects in India, he said, adding, “we are here for [a] thousand years.”
The company was rethinking its model for India strategically, and that was the real reason behind his visit, besides opening the Maps development centre in Hyderabad. Speaking about the key items on his India agenda, Cook said, “I wanted to understand [the country] from our point of view, I wanted to understand the infrastructure and the role of 4G. We think this is really critical to the progress of the country and it’s also critical in terms of bringing out the life of iPhone and really doing things you couldn’t do before. And I’m leaving very encouraged with what I’ve heard.”
Having met with telecom operators on his tour thus far, Cook revealed he was speaking to them both about the rollout of 4G LTE networks, as well as the sale of Apple smartphones in the country, but admitted the latter remained a long shot. “Yes, I’m doing both. It’s the truth and as you know it’s difficult for an operator here, to sell the product themselves because of the tax structure, so usually it’s the retailer that does that. And so the conversations are primarily around the service and the rollouts of the 4G. But we’ve has some interesting discussions about a number of different alternatives,” Cook said.
Speaking about the thus far thwarted plans of selling refurbished iPhones in the country, Cook defended Apple against charges it was just dumping its products in India. “First of all we would never ‘dump’ anything, this in virtually all countries in the world we have a process by which a phone that’s been used by the first owner or is taken back and made to be new, if you will, and a warranty is placed on that, just like a warranty for a new phone,” he said, also revealing that the company was planning on refurbishing iPhones within India borders, and that could be a good starting point for properly manufacturing in India.
As for plans to open Apple Stores in India, Cook said that though it wasn’t a “done deal” yet, the company had applied for the right to do so and was working closely with the government to achieve that goal. Cook added Apple’s plans weren’t to compete on price in the country, saying there will be segments of the market it will not enter. The company was also looking to optimise the user interface and services ecosystem for the country.
Speaking about the reasons behind the moves to open a Maps development centre in Hyderabad, and an iOS app Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru, Cook said India had an enormous talent pool to tap. “What we see here is talent, the talents of the Indian people are unbelievable. And for us that means getting the developer community moving on iOS. We are also utilising a lot of skills in India for maps,” he said.