Apple continues to struggle in India, the fastest growing smartphone market in the world. The Apple iPhone has a market share of less than 1 percent in the country, and it is struggling to compete with smartphones from Samsung, OnePlus and Huawei, in the premium segment. During the recent earnings calls, Apple CEO Tim Cook acknowledged that India is a challenging market in short term, and confirmed that price correction of some iPhone models helped the company improve its sales in the country. Now, in order to further strengthen its presence and put more iPhones in the hands of Indians, the company is preparing to introduce its own retail stores.
The Cupertino-based iPhone maker has reportedly shortlisted a few locations in the country for its first retail store. According to Bloomberg, the iPhone maker is looking at “upscale sites in Mumbai” for its first retail store and likens the new venue to that of its Fifth Avenue store in New York. The report adds that the decision is expected in the coming weeks and after that, Apple plans to make a formal application to the Indian government.
Apple has been pitching the idea of its own retail stores in the country since 2016, when CEO Tim Cook visited the country to meet industry leaders. However, it has not received permission for the government due to domestic manufacturing norms and there were also reports that Apple was seeking tax holidays from the government. The current retails norms require companies to source 30 percent of their products from locally in the country. With local manufacturing picking pace in the country, Apple has a better chance of getting approval for its first retail store.
Apple currently manufactures iPhone SE, iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 locally at contract manufacturer Wistron’s facility in Bengaluru. There are also reports of Foxconn having received approval to start local manufacturing of premium models like the iPhone X in India. The company has invested extensively to expand local manufacturing and this could help the company expand its retail stores in leading markets. The report further notes that Apple’s proposal will get expedited approval from the Indian government in the early June time frame.
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If Apple finalizes the location in Mumbai and gets approval for its first retail store from the government, there is a possibility that the store won’t be operational until 2020. Apple is looking at ways to boost iPhone sales in India and it has pinned down start of retail stores as key to expand its footprint in the price sensitive market.