Apple names long-time exec as new India sales head: source

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Apple Inc AAPL.O has appointed Michel Coulomb as its top sales executive in India, replacing Sanjay Kaul, a source familiar with the move said on Tuesday, as the U.S. tech giant pursues a bigger share of the world's third-largest smartphone market.

A man talks on his iPhone at a mobile phone store in New Delhi, India, July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Coulomb has worked with Apple since 2003 and was most recently the managing director for Apple in South Asia, according to his biography on professional network LinkedIn.

The Economic Times newspaper had reported earlier on Tuesday that Kaul would be leaving after six years with Apple, citing people familiar with the matter.

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Coulomb and Kaul were not immediately reachable.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based maker of the iPhone is keen to widen its reach in India where it currently holds just under 3 percent of the smartphone market.

Apple’s sales rose 17 percent to 116.19 billion rupees ($1.81 billion) in the fiscal year to March 2017, much slower than the 50 percent growth in the previous year, regulatory filings show.

It is also seeking incentives and tax breaks from the federal government to expand manufacturing in India.

On Monday, Apple increased prices for all its phones in India by an average 3.5 percent after the government last week raised taxes on imported phones, except the low-cost SE model that it assembles through its Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron 3231.TW in Bengaluru.

India's price-sensitive market is currently dominated by South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co Ltd 005930.KS, and Chinese players including Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo.

Apple’s iPhones remain aspirational for a rising middle class but their price keeps them out of the reach of many.

($1 = 64.1500 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Additional reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Rafael Nam and Stephen Coates