Apple to shake up international sales operations to make India its own region

The shift will mark the first time that India becomes its own sales region for Apple, which has seen demand surge in the country. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES – Apple is reshuffling management of its international businesses to put a bigger focus on India, according to people with knowledge of the matter, a sign of the nation’s growing importance.

The shift will mark the first time that India becomes its own sales region for Apple, which has seen demand surge in the country. This will give India increased prominence inside the tech giant, according to the people.

Apple is making the change after Mr Hugues Asseman, its vice-president in charge of India, the Middle East, Mediterranean, East Europe and Africa, recently retired. With his departure, the iPhone-maker is promoting its head of India, who reported to Mr Asseman. That executive, Mr Ashish Chowdhary, will now report directly to Apple head of product sales Michael Fenger.

The company posted record revenue in India in the last quarter, even as its total sales slipped 5 per cent. Apple has created an online store to serve the region and is planning to open its first retail outlets in the country later this year. On the last earnings call, chief executive Tim Cook said the company is putting “a lot of emphasis on the market” and compared the current state of its work in India to its early years in China.

“We are, in essence, taking what we learnt in China years ago and how we scale to China and bringing that to bear,” he said. China currently generates about US$75 billion (S$101.5 billion) a year for Apple, making it the company’s biggest sales region after the Americas and Europe.

Besides serving as a sales engine for Apple, India is also becoming more critical to its product development. Key suppliers are moving to the region, and Apple is working with manufacturing partner Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn, to set up new iPhone production facilities in the country, Bloomberg News has reported.

The latest changes will affect Apple’s management structure but not the way it reports regional sales in public financial results. In those statements, the company includes India as part of its Europe category, along with the Middle East and Africa. It also breaks out four other regions: the Americas, Greater China, Japan and the rest of Asia Pacific.

Mr Asseman’s departure is part of a surge in executives leaving the company in recent months. Apple’s vice-president in charge of subscription services stepped down earlier this year, and its cloud chief is planning to depart in April. Last year, top executives in charge of industrial design, procurement, parts of software and hardware engineering, privacy, information systems, and the online store all announced their exits. BLOOMBERG

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