Apple Inc next month is poised to open an online store for the first time in the fast-growing smartphone market of India, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, taking advantage of a relaxation of once-strict prohibitions against foreign direct retail.
The online store should be ready for operations just ahead of the festive Dussehra-Diwali spending season, said the person, who asked not to be named discussing confidential plans.
The iPhone maker, which lobbied New Delhi for years to get around regulations that force companies such as Apple to source 30 percent of components locally, had originally planned to start online sales within months after the government relaxed the rule last year. Those plans were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
India’s 1.3 billion people represent a large, under-served smartphone market that is becoming an increasingly important focus for Apple even as the pandemic raged this year.
The company, which has just made history by surpassing US$2 trillion in market value, is boosting investments in the South Asian nation to reduce its dependence on China both as a market and manufacturing base amid escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The Cupertino, California-based company also plans to open a second brick-and-mortar store in the technology hub of Bangalore, following an outlet in Mumbai that is to be its first physical location in the country, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Its first physical store is to open next year in the plush Mumbai neighborhood of BKC, and it has already scouted more than 46,000m2 of space right in the heart of Bangalore near Minsk Square, named after its sister city in Belarus.
Apple did not respond to an e-mail seeking comments on its renewed retail push in India.
“Apple’s made-in-India strategy plus the lower cost iPhone SE will increase traction,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Anand Srinivasan said. “They just can’t compete for Android-like high volume with their prices.”
Apple currently offers its devices in India through stores owned by franchise partners and via online platforms, including Amazon.com Inc and Walmart Inc-owned Flipkart Online Retails Services Pvt.
Selling through its own stores and via its Web site could help the company control branding and win customer loyalty while leveling the field with competitors such as China’s OnePlus Technology (Shenzhen) Co (萬普拉斯科技) and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co.
Alongside the expansion of its retail presence in India, Apple has been assembling its newest handsets — the iPhone SE and the iPhone 11 — in the country through its manufacturing partners Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) and Wistron Corp (緯創).
Another assembly partner, Pegatron Corp (和碩), is to set up its first plant in India.
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