Apple files application with Indian government to open its first stores in the countryBy Rob Thubron
Apple stores are certainly popular; you can find them in over 480 locations across 18 countries. But one area that surprisingly lacks any of the Cupertino company's retail outlets is India. Now, however, it looks like that's about to change, as Apple has confirmed it's filed a request with the Indian government to bring its stores to the world's second-most-populated country.
There are quite a few Apple stores across the Asian continent; it already has 31 outlets in China and others in Japan and Hong Kong. But it has up until now ignored India, preferring to sell its products through a franchised network of 'Apple shops' - small outlets designed by Apple that are found within the stores of third-party retailers such as Vodafone.
"Apple has been rather cold to India for the past several decades," Arvind Singhal, chairman and managing director at consulting firm Technopak, told Forbes. "There was practically no interest from Apple in India. Even the product pricing in India was ridiculously high and Apple customers in India were getting their products from overseas and the company didn't care."
Apple is increasingly looking to extend its reach into developing markets, especially after analysists predicted a downturn in iPhone sales this year - an area that makes up about two-thirds of the company's income.
The same analysists say that overall smartphone sales in many locations, especially the once booming Chinese sector, are plateauing. Apple will be hoping that opening its own-brand stores in India will help generate extra revenue in a country that has already brought in over $1 billion in sales for the company in the year ending March 2015.
One of the biggest sticking points for Apple was the government rule that required foreign-owned shops in India to source 30 percent of their wares locally within three years of their initial investment. But in November, this requirement was relaxed for companies selling 'state of the art' or 'cutting edge' technology, paving the way for Apple's stores and its Chinese-made products to enter the country.
One obstacle Apple has previously faced in India is the premium cost of its devices. The country's smartphone market is dominated by cheap Android handsets costing as little as $20. As a basic iPhone 6s costs around $852 in New Delhi, and the average Indian national income is around $1500, an Apple smartphone can certainly be considered a luxury item. But these new Apple stores will no doubt introduce more payment installment and buyback schemes, as well as discounts on older model iPhones, meaning that billion dollar sales figure is likely to continue growing.