Learning to blog again

Ah! The work and the likes have prevented me from writing regularly over the past couple of years! But it has come to the point where I’d better start writing now or I won’t be able to do that ever! So here I go 🙂

Blogging online has undergone a sea change in today’s Mobile Only world! I would be among those handful & (perhaps unfortunate) few who prefer typing on a desktop rather than simply ‘tumblr’ing or ‘tweeting’ or ‘instagram’ing away! But then thats what I love! I really do love long form writing and at some level its something that pushes me to write that elusive book over and over again. I have promised myself to do that for like three years now but haven’t actually gone on to type over! Perhaps the upcoming NANOWRIMO could be a terrific way to start off on that front!

So, on that subject, perhaps, it makes sense to look at what impact has mobile had over India! So I have used 10 new services over the past month – mostly food startups and for all of them, the mode of discovery and transaction has been mobile.

The services I have used are:

Eatlo, Tinyowl, Tandurust, Roadrunnr (for Mcdonald Delivery), Freshmenu, OneNote, PayUMoney, Practo, Inshorts, JetAirways (the app).

So actually, the transition to mobile has been complete largely in India. In fact that piece was also corroborated by the Big Billion Day, where we saw Flipkart trying to make a huge push to download the app, and later Amazon following suit.

The deal with adopting to the mobile is that most players think its the end of the Web as we know it. I don’t think thats necessarily the end of it. I really think that Web still has a play with most of them using Web very productively in offices. Plus web , the form factor is much better for research. Additionally with Surface and iPad pro promising to deliver a great consumer experience on the larger screen, things could still change. However, as far as India goes, a large majority would use predominantly mobile phones only.

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Marketing, Technology

Whatsapp – The meteoric rise and Impact in India in 2013

Whatsapp and its rapid market capture in India

Whatsapp groups are immensely popular in India

When the world talks of Social Networking, they talk of Facebook or twitter, but when India talks about social networking in 2013, Indians talk of Whatsapp. Facebook is still the application that the web-enabled junta use, but in terms of engagement, whatsapp has clearly beaten them all.

In fact, a lot of Mobile telecom companies are claiming Whatsapp to be the trigger why people have started using their GPRS or 3G plans. Whatsapp has become THAT utility which has started making people look at stuff like 3G seriously. While this sounds incredulous, India as a country is totally capable of actually exhibiting that behavior.

2013 could be summarised as a year of true smartphone adoption ( even commoditization in India) . With such smartphones, users are becoming aware of the utility of 3G etc. For example, my family members today ask me of 3G availability in some region of India before they leave for that place. But in this age, conventional wisdom would have placed a bet on Facebook becoming more and more dominant on mobile in India. However, that hasn’t happened. How did whatsapp actually capture mindspace in India? Here are my top three reasons  why Whatsapp became so popular in India –

1. “BBM for all” – Around 24 to 30 months back, Whatsapp actually started growing due to its positioning as a cross platform messaging. At that time, BBM was immensely popular in India.

2. Made free by Android – As part of Android’s growth, Google was promoting Whatsapp as a free app on the Android ecosystem which lead to zooming adoption rates across the world, particularly India

3. Simple, ad free & Social – With the social network coming on Whatsapp, there was an inherent lock in, and now, it was further increasing due to simple usability of Whatsapp per se.

Whatsapp – the utility and impact it has caused –

1. Largest personal & enterprise social network + collaboration – A lot of teams at the workplace have an internal whatsapp and this is increasing collaboration

2. Largest Alumni networking tool – Be it your school group, college group or graduation class group- every major institution that people joined have a corresponding Whatsapp group now.

3. Always on, Always Live, easiest – You can whatsapp when travelling, listening to music or as a refresher during office hours. This wasn’t the case with Facebook as it was blocked in a lot of offices

Right from a wife telling her husband that she is safe but under the rubble after a building collapse in Africa to wishing Happy Independence Day to Indians all over India, Whatsapp has had a deep impact already & in my opinion would be the top mobile app in India by a long way.

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Marketing, Strategy, Technology

Samsung Galaxy note 2 – Marketing spree overview

If there if one device that is on one huge marketing spree currently all over India, that device has to be the Galaxy note 2. After the rousing success of Galaxy note, Galaxy Note 2 obviously comes with an air of anticipation around it. And Samsung is sparing no efforts to make its flagship product known to one and all.

Lets have a quick look at the marketing aspects of Samsung Galaxy note 2.


1. Presence on reality shows – Bigg Boss Season 6 has just started at the right time for the product launch. Branding the show as powered by Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a brilliant move for sure. It will surely catch mass eyeballs here.

2. Cricket world cup – Both TV and internet . Its a known fact that cricket is the best place to tap technology / phone buying audience. Nokia and Blackberry have used this strategy to good effect for so many years now. Obviously, Samsung won’t be left behind. Expect a lot of ads on TV, internet, mobile about the Note 2.

3. Internet – Samsung Galaxy note 2 being an eagerly anticipated product, is prominently featured on all top ecommerce sites – Ebay, Flipkart, Infibeam, Rediff Shopping etc. You name it and that ecommerce site features the Note 2 prominently. This kind of publicity cannot be bought! Here are the top 3 deals I could find for the Note 2 online ( as on Oct 9 )

So, are you going to buy the most marketed product of the season? Especially with the festive season approaching, a lot of peoples’ answer would be Yes! Let us know your reviews or anything about the note below!

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India 3G subscribers at 40 mn
Business, Technology, Web

Learnings for India from KPCB Internet trends presentation

Quick highlights for our readers –

100 mn mark breached – So, a lot of talk over the weekend about the Internet trends. India had a full 20 slides devoted to it, thats how seriously the global media takes India. First thing to note that India Internet users have crossed 100 mn successfully and now are at 120+ mn.

India Mobile users of Internet surpass the Desktop/Laptop – Next, Mary Meeker sees India’s unique phenomenon where Mobile users have passed Desktop users as a Good / Bad news. What I feel is that in terms of Mobile, India – and not any other country will act as a bellwether for the rest of the world. Reason is simple – In India, lot of mobile users don’t know enough English to use the laptop/desktop yet, in fact they get too intimidated to use the laptop/ desktop. Besides the mobile is extremely convenient to use too.

LOW ARPU – Average revenue per user problem on mobile – Another very interesting thing to note is that while ARPU on mobile has increased in Japan, it hasn’t done so in the US. The current models, both of Google and Facebook are being challenged as mobile proliferation hots up. Note that even Facebook’s billion dollar acquisition – Instagram – hadn’t even come close to solve the monetization problem yet. Clearly, putting ads within apps and waiting for ad dollars is not the way to go as far as mobile monetization is concerned.

Re-imagining life in India – As far as India goes, adoption of mobile and smartphones particularly will keep happening. Especially with dual sim smartphones coming to the market, expect an amazing tug of war for email users, social networking users, e-commerce junta and so on in India!

For those who missed the presentation, check it out below!

View more presentations from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Perhaps one of the most comprehensive presentations I have seen in recent times about the internet.

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Business, Marketing, Technology

Rethinking Marketing in the Mobile age

The Web 2.0 paradigms have undergone significant changes as the mobile and tablets have emerged as strong contenders in the early 2010s. Here we try and analyze what the marketing team and marketing agencies do in today’s context and why their role requires significant thought .

A lot of people generally think that marketing agency switching involves little or no switching costs at all. Au contraire, the reverse seems to be becoming true these days. The reason for this is the very fact that there are now so many newer facets to marketing to chop through. Its not individual channel marketing but overall media basket handling – including television, radio, print, outdoor, internet and mobile which seems to be the toughest part to handle for many a company these days. Why is this happening?

Its very much Murphy’s law isn’t it? At one point, you are hard pressed to squeeze higher ROI through marketing, whereby you just HAVE to pressurize your marketing incharge. And then at other end, you have to ensure that the capability co-efficient of your marketer is strong and growing all the time as well. The balance of all of this is very tough to achieve and many-a-big companies have faltered in achieving the same. Why – well, look at what the duties of the ‘marketing’ part of the organisation have become.

1. Stand out in the crowd – In a world where brands are literally crying hoarse for attention, your marketing team has to make an effort to make your brand stand out. For this, just normal ‘reminder’ or ‘continuation’ type of ads won’t do. The ads need to necessarily be something that stands out. Some of the ads that are managing to do so are ad campaigns like ‘Havells’ with the ‘ON-OFF’ switches and the ‘Rajesh Khanna’ ad campaign during the cricket extravaganza – IPL.

2.  Tracking competition and industry – Today’s ad world has become proactive. Professionals of the world understand that with increasingly lower response times to any brilliant moves by the competitors in the industry, the marketing team needs to be on its toes at every moment basically. Marketing team has to be the first one which tracks the industry as a whole and cracks the whip on so many change initiatives that then impact the company overall, before its too late. Take for instance the ‘per-second-billing’ concept introduced by Tata Docomo. Now, as competition, they knew that they had to react. However, launching per second billing could considerably impact their revenue projections for the coming quarters. The trade off could be quite large, but the need to react certainly was massive.

3. Plethora of media – How many times have you heard your marketing team exclaim – ‘XYZ has come up with a new SMS campaign’, ‘ABC has come up with a new iPad application’, ‘XYZ has come up with a new tieup that promises to get them significant mileage and lower customer acquisition costs’ ? Clearly, in today’s world, there are many ways in which significant advantages can be created for your organisation by executing an innovative media campaign or a far sighted alliance or a novel customer outreach program successfully. This creates an interesting trade off for the marketers to solve, wherein you are expected to do an opportunity cost analysis and optimise your budget for guaranteed returns. The usual force-fitting of mass media campaigns may not be needed for many of the companies with a similar effect can be achieved by a beautifully executed facebook campaign which can potentially go viral on Facebook.

4. Metrics for evaluating success – In the modern era, particularly last 5 years, marketing as a function has increasingly ceased to remain isolated from the rest of the organisation. Gone are the days when marketing team functions completely differently from the rest of the organisation. Today, a marketing team is a complex team of coders, multi skilled people and even the management guys on the sales and production side which need to understand what the market wants. Also, there are new ways to measure the effectiveness of every marketing activity that one is doing. For example, clear metrics such as number of phone calls, number of leads, number of impressions, potential reach metrics have become increasingly accurate.
Note that a lot of what was discussed above is something that your marketing agency does or is involved in partly. These are critical tasks for your organisation and do not think that they are something that are easily dispensable. The role of the agency has evolved into a business partner with long reaching business parter in your business and it should be recognized as such.

What are your thoughts? Post them below.

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Business, Marketing, Strategy, Web

Smartphone usage data for India and inferences

We believe this is indeed a Gold mine of data for marketers and marketing strategists. Google recently launched a nice initiative – Our Mobile Planet (link) which has research, data and analysis about what users do with their smartphones. I checked some data for India and here are some interesting facts –

1. What do users do after their Local search

A lot of users call the business – which was a surprise. Visit the website and visit the business were the obvious choices. Clearly, on local searches the trick is to be present with a contact number. Check chart below


2. Advertisements on Smartphones – In India, ad awareness seems to be improving but a lot of users don’t really visit the website and do the intended action when it comes to the sponsor wanting returns from the ad. Clearly, there is still spillage and the simpler the ad, the better the returns it would seem for the smartphone user.


3. Smartphone Payment options – Frankly speaking I doubt if the base case for this will be significant enough. At max it would be the Indian iPhone users with not many of the Android users regularly transacting using Mobile phones ( not that I know of at least) Unsurprisingly, not many have used the payment options , and to the delight of a lot of ecomm firms , the preferred mode of payment is the Credit card! So clearly, all the ecomm firms, will look to create apps for its users sooner rather than later!


4. Smartphone penetration in India – The number stands at a dismal 23% only. (Dismal in my books at least ) . But that also underlines the huge opportunity with smartphones and the app makers have in future. No wonder all cell phone manufacturers want to enter the smartphone market.


5. Smartphone usage patterns in India

Clearly, the smartphone usage patterns in India show how smartphones are indeed frequently used by users. That in itself is an encouraging sign for all the startups working in the technology domain (including mine of course – A new age real estate portal 🙂 ) Notice how the future trends are – clearly the future is extremely encouraging!

usage patterns for smartphones in india

What do you think of these findings, let us know!

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Business, Marketing, Technology

Mobile phone buyers in India – 2010 and beyond (Part 2)

(Last time, I wrote about the qualitative classification of Mobile phone buyers in India. This is a continuation of that post. )

Million households
Firstly, to give numbers to the last time’s classification – NCAER numbers of 2006 are as given in the chart above. The survey takes into account data for 209 mn households.

In the IPL, we have some interesting brandings happening already. Have you noticed the number of telecom companies + mobile phone companies advertising during the 45 day cricket extravaganza? I can count – Karbonn mobile, Micromax, Videocon, Nokia, Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance, Tata Docomo, Max mobile, Samsung, LG – basically the entire industry is present here in some or the other manner. That explains the mad scramble to get to the Indian eyeballs and grabbing some amount of market share.

So, where is this industry going ahead? If I were to identify top 3 potential game-changers in 2010, these (or a combination of these) would be my answers.

1. The mobile operator – As mobile phone buyers become more versatile and know what to expect from a mobile phone, they will make more and more informed choices- particularly, those in the Climbers class and above. In this context, the role of the operator will become increasingly important. For an aware mobile phone buyer, an attractive mobile phone package can act as an effective deterrent to the lure of the prepaid connection. That phone manufacturer+ operator combination which can crack this code the quickest will have some kind of first mover advantage in this aspect of the market.

2. Promotions – As the cost-feature mismatch between manufacturers reduces, Promotions and top-of-mind recall will be a differentiator in a major way. The huge ad-spends during IPL by every major mobile manufacturer indicate just that. Expect the bollywood and cricketing fraternity coming to your newspapers, TV screens, FM channels, roadside hoardings a lot more during the remaining quarters of 2010. Here’s another Zoozoo ad from the 2010 campaign. ( We had so many posts on the Zoozoo campaign on last year – here’s one by Shubham )

3. 3G technology – when and if it happens! – This TOI article states that 3G auctions in India may happen in April 2010. I have been hearing about these dates for the past 18 months now, and would comment on these only when the auctions truly take place.

At the risk of digressing from the topic, I wish to quote Mr. Shyam Ponappa in an article about Spectrum management written during the budget week

India’s spectrum allocation is burdened with short-term revenue collection for the government, and a shortage mentality. There is apparently insufficient clarity on spectrum usage for ubiquitous broadband/telephony as in other countries, let alone more ambitious targets, such as developing an Indian standard.

Our policies could address the requirement for enhanced coverage/capacity at low cost to make services available everywhere at reasonable prices. Innovative approaches to spectrum management could help get these, through:

Technology-neutrality: the UK and Norway have not restricted the use of recently auctioned spectrum to any technology.

In the context of the mobile phone buyer, the 3G auction can lead to considerable changes in the buyer mindset. If the auctions of through, there can be significant shifts in the buying patterns of the feature conscious mobile buyers , particularly in the later part of the year. The auction can also be the trigger for the emergence of Apple and Android based phones to enter the Indian market in a big way.

To round it up, the market is a huge opportunity right now- the new entrants and the super-aggressive promotions happening all around are testimony to the above statement. 2010 may well be an year where (a) fragmentation can come into the market (b) mobile-buyers will increasingly become feature conscious (c) growth will come through the second time buyer.

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Business, Technology

Classifying the mobile phone buyers in India (Part 1)

For 2 weeks now, I have been doing my bit about understanding the mobile handset market in India from a ‘qualitative’ perspective. It is expected that very soon 50% of the Indian population will have a mobile phone in their hand. I tried to understand 3 things – What works, what doesn’t – what does the consumer really look at when he goes out to buy a cell phone?

Overall, I have classified the consumer into 5 types – the base of this is Rama Bijapurkar’s 5 pronged classification of Indian consumer class in her book – ‘ We are like that only‘. (She classifies the consumer class into 5 categories – The destitute, the aspirants, the climbers, the consuming class, the rich) . In the mobile phone context, the definitions change a bit, but the concept remains the same.

  • 15cell.600The ultra cost sensitive – For this category, mobile phone is a result of months of savings. Typically, they would buy a mobile phone from a diwali bonus or through savings of around 4-5 months. An example of this category would be household maids working in metros. This category would buy the lowest cost phones available out there,
  • Cost conscious – This class is cost conscious but is willing to experiment. They are most likely to get influenced by peers / family members / children / society with respect to the choices they make while buying the phone.
  • Cost limiters but feature awareness – Typically a consumer, from this class onwards, is looking for an improvement over their earlier phone. This class will have a cost limit, but are aware of what features they use in the cell phone and are willing to buy a mobile phone which gives the best within the cost limits.
  • Feature sensitive – These folks are feature sensitive, for them, things like camera, looks of a mobile phone, size etc matter. An example would be the burgeoning consumer class. They have cost limits, but don’t mind exceeding them if they see utility in a particular product which suits their needs.
  • Cost indifferent , ultra feature sensitive – They do extensive research before buying a mobile phone. They look at websites, magazines, TV ads and most importantly, their peers before deciding what to buy. They also know a mobile phone geek , someone who knows about cell phones – who gives them choices – which become the sample space for these consumers.

(TBC – will continue this post over the weekend)

Image credit – 1

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The ‘touch’ revolution!

We have had some amazing advancements in the telecommunications/ entertainment industry. Every gadget has had one objective in common though – introducing ‘ease of use’. The iPhone took ‘ease-of-use’ to another level with its capacitive touchscreen technology. Next came the kindle and Sony e-book reader (of which I believe only Sony’s book reader has touch capabilities – For more on book readers, read this crunchgear article) The laptop makers and even biggies like Microsoft and Apple must have sensed this as a huge opportunity. This week, we have had a slew of articles – all speculating about Apple tablet, Microsoft’s tablet – Courier, even a tablet with touchscreen capabilities by HP. The question is – are touchscreen tablets the next ‘in’ thing after mobile phones and book readers? Here’s why I think the answer is Yes –

Touch has the potential to truly lower the language barrier – Today, what holds gadgets off is the interface in English. For expanding into diverse markets like India, lowering the language barrier is essential alongwith the prime factor called cost. As touchscreen gadgets penetrate the market, the ‘qwerty’ keyboard can be replaced with a hindi language keyboard. This itself promises to change lives of many who wish to use gadgets like these.

(Caution: Image below is pure speculation on techblogs as of now. There has been NO official announcement)

Note: This is simply speculation

Note: This is simply speculation right now on various tech-blogs

Touch for ease of use – Icons are possibly the easiest way of identifying with things. Every advanced phone today has one character- icon representation of features. While some phones such as Nokia N95 use buttons to browse icons, latest phones like Samsung star, Nokia N97 and IPhone 3GS are using touchscreen to scintillating effect. Today, calling my best friend is as simple as pressing my finger on his/her photo in the contacts list. That for me is great ease of use.

Why tablets are the way to go?

Even now, for work, people prefer a larger screen. Can you imagine yourself writing a full report or doing a ppt or an excel sheet on a mobile? Majority of people will still say they would like to look at a larger screen. A tablet would not only increase mobility (since these gadgets would definitely be more portable than a laptop) but also aid faster browsing.

Clearly, all major firms in this field must be working towards creating a superb interface . This is one field where one can expect a lot of advances, particularly in 2010.

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(Image credits)

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Marketing, Strategy, Technology

Apple iPhone and its India Strategy

iphone-3gsAs we all know iPhone is one of the most sought after possession in the recent times. The phone which combines iPod with a mobile phone and wireless connection which enables us to connect to the web has captured the imagination of the people all around the one and lots of them are dying to lay their hands on it.

iPhone 3G was released on August 22, 2008 in India, thus allowing the Indians to lay their hands on iPhones legally. Indians who till then had mostly heard about the iPhones and a few had got it from US through some relatives could now “legally” own it. But as history tells us it was a flop in India. Now that Apple is preparing to release its next version of iPhone, iPhone 3G, we can try and see what went wrong with Apple’s strategy last time.

1. Pricing: Most people do tell that the high pricing of the iPhones were a deterrent to the people who wanted to buy it. The reason was that the people knew that iPhones were being sold at $199 in US which is equivalent to around Rs 10000/-. So they had expected that it will be around the same level in India too. But what they hadn’t factored in and what apple has till now failed to educate is that it is a highly subsidized rates being provided by the carrier and you need to get into a 2 year contract for that with the carrier.
The carrier, AT&T in this case, had used the opportunity to lock in thousands of users. Take for example the recently announced one of its best ever spring quarter results in which they added 1.2 million cell phone users and activated 2.4 million iPhones in the quarter. And most of them came in the last two weeks of the quarter when the new iPhone 3GS was released. Also many don’t know that you are forced to take up data plan with the carrier leading to its increased revenue. This is one of the main reasons that AT&T subsidizes iPhones in US.
But in India, though the people were bound by the contract to the carriers, they did not subsidize the phones, leading to the higher price. Though many blame apple for the high price, I think it should be the carriers in India who should be blamed for it.

2. Carriers: And now coming to the carriers, why were Airtel and Vodafone so uninterested in subsidizing the phone and in providing unlimited data access which Apple wanted.
For that let us see how AT&T benefits from being the carrier which enables it to give the subsidy. AT&T is a leader in the wireless provider market in US and it has exclusive distribution rights for iPhones in US. It provides GSM services whereas its closest competitors Verizon and Sprint are both CDMA shops. With the exclusive agreement with AT&T, Apple is barred from developing CDMA version of the iPhones for next 5 years. Thus, making this a much sought after item, if AT&T subsidizes the price, it can attract more users from its competitors and lock them in.
Whereas in India, Apple is going in with both Airtel and Vodafone as carriers. And they are the leading competitors in the wireless provider market, at least as of last year. And by simple logic as the prices were pretty much similar with both of them, they knew that attracting users from the other is very hard by giving subsidy as the other would also follow the suit. That way there was no guarantee of them increasing their market shares due to iPhones. Hence, the lackluster attitude of both the companies towards iPhone. It is also rumored that Apple is not happy with both of them as they did not aggressively market iPhones, but were interested in marketing blackberries and their own phones. The reason for this too would be the same.
Regarding unlimited data access, the reason for Airtel and Vodafone to not provide unlimited data access might be the very low ARPU. Since the ARPU in India is very low most of the companies make their revenues in the data access which they provide and Airtel and Vodafone would be very much disinclined towards reducing their profits by providing their main revenue earning service for unlimited use.

Although these are the main reasons, there are many other reasons for the failure too, like the non availability of 3G which was the selling point of the phones in US. But I don’t feel that that would be an important reason, because not many Indian users would be buying it for the 3G factor, but most of them would be buying it as a novelty factor.

So what should Apple do to improve its performance in India?

1. Try and educate masses about the price they see in US and that in India. Although unlocked iPhones in US and other places sell at almost the same or higher prices than in India, not many know it. All they see is the price on the apple store which lists the price at $99 for 8GB 3G phone and $199 and $299 for the 16GB and 32 GB 3GS ones respectively. What they don’t see is that an unlocked iPhone 3GS 16 GB costs $600+ and 32 GB $700+.

2. Stick to one carrier so that it has some incentive to provide subsidized rates in India. But again the problem here is up to what level the contract can be enforced by the carriers in India. Especially in a country where there is jugaad in every work, the users can easily get the phone unlocked and use it after buying it cheap. Can something be done to make sure that breaking the contract has the same penalty as in US? This is something for the carriers to think and make their contracts stricter.

3. Instead of selling iPhones at unsubsidized price and being locked to the carrier for a year, it would be better if they could sell the iPhones in apple stores. The people who were not buying it because of the contract (now I know this would be a very miniscule amount) would then consider buying it. At least I have seen many people buying iPhones from Hong Kong where the prices are almost similar (many be a couple of thousands less), just because you are getting an unlocked iPhone legally and for a lesser amount than in India.

4. Now that the iPhone 3GS is being introduced, instead of phasing out the older 3G version in India as it is being rumored now, provide it at a lower price, which could be affordable for the upper middle section of the society. This would allow more number of people to have the feel of an iPhone and as I have seen many of them would be hooked for a long time. And don’t give me the reason that Apple wants it to be a niche phone. When they can allow it to be sold at a subsidy (with many plans you get an iPhone without any payment and you pay the amount in installments over the period of contract) in US and can have 2.4 million people buy it in 10 days, does it really want to play to niche game in my view.

(This post was written by Arun K S. We thank him for his insights, and look forward to his further posts. For more on Arun, check his previous post here)

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