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Apple Loses Key Sales Executives as India Strategy Stumbles

Apple Inc. has lost a trio of pivotal executives in India in recent weeks as it struggles to boost iPhone sales in the world’s fastest-growing major smartphone market, people familiar with the matter say.

Among the executives who’ve departed are its national sales and distribution chief, the head of its commercial channels and mid-market business, and the head of telecom carrier sales, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. Apple’s Indian sales team is now undergoing a restructuring, one of the people said.

The executive exodus is a symptom of Apple’s persistent malaise in India, where high tariffs inflate the price tags of imported gadgets such as the iPhone and consumers gravitate toward cheaper alternatives from the likes of Xiaomi Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. Instead, the company resorts to marketing iPhones that are a few generations old and doesn’t manufacture its latest models domestically, thereby incurring import levies.

Its inability to grow the business and single-digit market share stand in stark contrast to the publicly upbeat comments of Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, who’s used phrases like “very bullish” and “very optimistic” when speaking about the Asian country.

Caught up in those challenges is Michel Coulomb, who took over as head of Indian operations in December 2017. While Coulomb has rich experience in carrier-led sales, his team has been slow to cultivate business relationships in the market, the people said. Apple’s also had difficulties understanding the country, leaving the sales team direction-less, they said. The company’s representatives in India didn’t respond to emailed questions.

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