As one of the world’s most courted CEOs, Tim Cook has an impossibly packed schedule. Yet on his recent trip to India, he visited a temple, a Gandhi memorial, hobnobbed with Bollywood celebs and even watched a cricket match.
Pander to the crowd: If Alibaba’s Jack Ma or Amazon’s Jeff Bezos were to visit Westminster Abbey on a trip to England it would lead to sniggers. But such cultural gestures are immeasurably important in countries like India. They signal respect. Cook even signed off with these words: ‘Apple is in India for the next thousand years’. Hyperbole, but in a country with a long history of colonisation, it was just what the audience needed to hear.
Keep it light: India is the world’s third largest smartphone market, but presents problems for Apple. It is cost sensitive and dominated by local and Korean brands. Apple’s plan to sell pre-owned iPhones at accessible price points is facing opposition. What did Cook do? Announced a new development centre in Hyderabad and iOS centre in Bengaluru. Sound strategy – don’t stick to hard sell, find win-win ways to touch the consumer.
Keep it real: People are quick to pick up insincerity. Cook met questions about pre-owned iPhones and manufacturing in India head on. Sometimes it was awkward, and he didn’t have all the answers. But he didn’t act as though it was the market’s fault. He was clear that India was a valuable growth market, and the visit was ‘exploratory’. People got that.
Take a joke: It was not all business. Twitter was aflame with ‘Tim Cook in India’ jokes.
So there it is. Keep it genuine, keep it generous, and don’t ignore the elephant in the room. Go up and say “Namaste”. *