Apple CEO Tim Cook paid a visit next door this April, to cut the ribbon in Mumbai and New Delhi as India welcomed its first Apple stores with exultation and sanguinity. The air was redolent with the sound of animated chatter as the event marked the evolution of Apple’s involvement in India. A new chapter in a relationship dating back to 2017 when India enticed Apple to outsource iPhone manufacturing. A relationship that has even led to Apple rivalling arch-rival Samsung in adopting India’s PLI’s scheme to net the country over $9 billion in phone exports this fiscal year alone.
We observed with bated breath and a twinge of envy as our rival made these strides. How did India manage to pull this off? How did it convince the world’s most valuable company to invest? These were just some of the many questions that ran through our minds as we witnessed the spectacle.
Our mobile industry, in contrast to its Indian counterpart, currently stares into the abyss. A paucity of raw materials and components has debilitated the industry, and its inability to open letters of credit portends a complete shutdown.
As Cook left India with a note expressing his eagerness to return, it was clear that India had made a lasting impression. For us looking on with envy, this only added insult to injury. The contrast couldn’t be more pronounced. It was hard not to imagine what it would be like if these stores had opened under the guise of Lahore’s minarets and not Delhi’s, or peppered with the briny zephyr of Karachi and not Mumbai.
How did we let another opportunity slip through our fingers? Does April’s situation offer a chance for reflection on our capabilities and limitations? In this momentary lapse in mobile manufacturing, we can ask: Should we expect Tim Cook on our shores anytime soon or will we repeat history by supporting an inferior industry?