Business

Elon Musk and Apple are hunting India’s aspirational elite

By Oliver Smith 16 February 2017
Summary

Tech giants have found a new source of global demand.

Apple, Netflix, and now Tesla are bullish about the opportunity India holds for their businesses.

Tim Cook earlier this month revealed Apple has seen “all-time record revenue results” with sales of its iPhone in the country and that he believes “it’s a great place to be”.

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk dropped the bombshell last week that his premium electric car company would also be launching in India this summer.

 

Teslas start around $78,000 with a more “affordable” $35,000 model coming later this year, not exactly a cheap purchase.

But India’s 1.3bn citizens are growing increasingly wealthy, and are splashing out on high end goods.

A rising tide of wealth

By some accounts India is now the 7th richest country on the planet, but these riches aren’t shared.

96% of the population have less than $10,000 in total wealth, with an average wealth of just $3,835 per adult according to Credit Suisse.

“Just like anywhere else in the world Tesla is quite an aspirational product for people around here,” Pankaj Mishra, the journalist and entrepreneur behind Indian tech publication Factor Daily told The Memo.

The challenges to overcome

Mishra highlights the challenges Tesla will face both from Indian authorities, who impose a 125% tax on foreign cars sold in India, and the rolling out of electric car charging facilities across the country.

“The real challenge for Tesla is getting the ecosystem right, whether that’s regulatory hurdles or just building out their super-charger network here.”

Even though Tesla has not officially launched in India yet, many entrepreneurs across the country have already pre-booked the vehicles, including Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Alibaba-backed Indian e-commerce site Paytm.

New Delhi, India. Uber is hoping to repair relationships with India with new expansion plans.

A Tesla for everyone?

Outside of the tech community, Teslas will be a harder sell.

Even in countries like the US and UK where the infrastructure and regulations both actively promote electric cars, Tesla remains a niche, albeit aspirational, car brand.

But Tesla already has a great example of another aspirational device breaking into India’s mainstream.

The iPhone has quickly become a status symbol in the Asian country, and Apple is even planning to start manufacturing the smartphone in India.

If Elon Musk can pull off the same trick, he could quickly find millions of eager new customers at his door.