Interviews

Interview with Brendan Martin – Apple Store employee – Whitehall, PA

Brendan Martin was an Apple employee for just under one year.  In this online interview he discusses his time there and what he saw as an Apple employee, offering insights into what it is like to work for a company as influential as Apple.  In the interview we learn that yes, Apple does create Apple people, not only through its products but also by the way that their employees engage with current and potential customers.

Interview with Brendan Martin – click here

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Interview with Esmatullah Rahimi – Apple Store employee – Kabul, Afghanistan

Esmatullah Rahimi worked as a military translator before becoming manager of the only Apple Store in Kabul. This unofficial Apple Store is probably unknown to Apple’s corporate headquarters, as it resells marked-up Apple products brought in from Dubai.  In this interview he talks about the rise of Apple People in the Afghan capital and contemplates the brand’s future ten years down the road.

Kabul seems like an unusual place for an Apple Store. How did that happen?

I opened the store in August 2010.  We’re not a full-service Apple Store.  We don’t have direct access to all Apple products.  What we’re able to keep in inventory comes through an Apple Store in Dubai. This is really a pilot project.  If there’s enough demand, I think we’ll expand.  But obviously, getting Apple products out here has its challenges.

How well has the store been received, and what are people buying?

In Afghanistan everything is PC, as far as computers go.  Macs have caught on among graphic designers and video editors, but for most Afghans they’re too expensive and not compatible with most of the pirated software in the bazaar. But iPhones and iPads are very popular.  We sell probably half a dozen iPhones a day and three or four iPads. You’re starting to see people in teahouses and restaurants playing with iPads. They’re still new enough that people gather around to see, like it’s magic.  So yeah, the store seems to be growing in popularity.  As people discover the iPads and iPhones they’re starting to discover Macs as well.

What kind of Afghans use Apple products?  What defines Apple People here?

Well, Afghans don’t have a lot of money, so to own an Apple you need to have a good job.  I’d say that most Apple consumers are pretty young, from around 25 to 35.  These are the people who work either as translators for the military or who work on aid projects.  I’ve seen people come in here and blow a whole month’s salary on an iPad. [A 16gb iPad sells here for around $800.]  It’s very trendy to own an iPhone or an iPad.  These young Afghans work around foreigners who have iPods and Macs and iPads, and they want them too.  They see them in movies and on TV.  Or they see their friends using them, and they get jealous.  Like I said, it’s trendy.

I was down in Lashkar Gah recently [capital of the southern province of Helmand] and I saw a guy with an iPad.  I had my iPad out and we both looked at each other like, wow, you know?  You don’t see iPads much in the south.  iPhones are catching on, but the Apple thing is really a northern phenomenon.

Why is that?

You know the south: conservative, backward, unstable. People are more worried about finding a job and staying alive. An iPhone is a luxury they don’t care about.  But I may be wrong.  Children of government officials might have Apple stuff, or rich kids at the university.  But you won’t see any Apple Stores popping up down there anytime soon.

Is there anything else about Apple products that draws people in?

They’re very easy to use and they don’t break down.  We’ve never had a single iPad come back for service issues.  But really it’s the trend thing.  For women the iPhone is a fashion statement.  If you see a woman using an iPhone, even if she’s wearing the hijab [burka] you know she’s got money and that she wants people to notice her.  You don’t really look twice if she’s on a Nokia, you know?

Do people know about Steve Jobs over here?

I do, obviously.  But most people probably don’t.  We don’t get the same advertisements out here as you do.

What kind of apps are popular for the iPhone?

There’s a great app with a GPS street map of Kabul.  You know most of our streets don’t have names, and sometimes it’s hard to know where you’re going, so that’s pretty good to have.  Games are popular.  But you know, to get anything on iTunes you have to have a debit card, and no one here has debit cards, so people just stick to the free apps.  But there are so many of them, you know.

Where do you see Apple going in the next 10 years here in Kabul?

As with everything, it depends on security. If people have good jobs, they’ll keep buying Apple stuff.  It will get more popular.  Maybe the prices will come down.  But it all depends on jobs and security.  People are worried about what will happen in 2014 [following the withdrawal of most American troops], even the young people.  But if we have a stable society, people will buy more Apple stuff.  We’ll get a bigger store and maybe open in another mall.  You’ll see more people talking on their iPhones.  Right now Apple is still cool, and that makes people want it even more.  When everyone is used to it and it’s not cool anymore people will buy Apple because they know it’s just the best brand around.

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