Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, is currently in India to inaugurate the company’s first physical stores in the country. This is a significant step for Apple, as India is the world’s second-largest smartphone market.
Cook personally greeted customers at the new Mumbai outlet, while employees cheered and clapped. He is also expected to attend the opening of a second store in Delhi later in the week. This move is part of Apple’s efforts to focus on India as a consumer market and a manufacturing hub.
In a statement, Cook highlighted the company’s continued expansion in India, with the launch of the brick-and-mortar stores coinciding with the 25th anniversary of its operations in the country. He expressed excitement about building on the company’s long-standing history in India and working together to create a better future while supporting local communities.
Apple, in a separate statement on Monday, provided a glimpse of its new Mumbai store, located in a property owned by Reliance Industries, a conglomerate owned by Indian businessman Mukesh Ambani.
The store is being touted as one of Apple’s most energy-efficient in the world, thanks to its solar panels that allow it to run entirely on renewable power. However, Apple did not provide any further comment or details about Tim Cook’s visit.
While Apple is the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, with Samsung leading the pack, its share of the Indian market is only 6%, which is dwarfed by the top five vendors in the country, led by Samsung and Chinese smartphone makers Xiaomi and Vivo.
Many consumers in India find Apple products to be too expensive, with the average monthly salary for regular full-time workers being 18,585 rupees ($226.5), as per government statistics. In comparison, the starting price of an iPhone 14 is 79,900 rupees ($973.6), and the lower-cost iPhone SE model starts at 49,900 rupees ($608.2).
Nevertheless, Apple’s position is expected to improve as it expands its retail presence in India and more customers shift towards high-end smartphones. While Apple faces stiff competition in the Indian market, the company’s focus on renewable energy and sustainable practices may help it win over environmentally conscious Indian consumers.
Apple increases focus on India
Until recently, Apple was only able to sell its products in India through third-party resellers or online, as foreign retailers were required to source at least 30% of raw materials locally before setting up shop in the country. This requirement was eased by the Indian government in 2019.
In 2020, Apple launched its online store in India, allowing customers to purchase its products and even customize certain devices. The company had initially planned to open its first physical store in India in 2021, but this was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Prachir Singh, a senior analyst at Counterpoint Research, the locations of the new stores in Delhi and Mumbai are crucial, as these cities are the top two Indian markets for Apple, with Mumbai contributing to 10% of overall iPhone sales in India.
Singh also noted that brick-and-mortar stores are particularly important for premium smartphone brands like Apple, as customers prefer to touch and feel the device before making a purchase.
Apple has been increasing its manufacturing operations in India, which has emerged as an important market for the company. After starting iPhone production in India in 2017, Apple has been ramping up its manufacturing operations in the country, particularly in recent months, due to supply chain disruptions in China, where the bulk of its smartphone manufacturing occurs.
In 2022, Apple increased its Indian exports by 65% compared to the previous year. Its top contract manufacturers, Foxconn and Wistron, were the fastest-growing manufacturers in India in the last quarter of 2022, according to Counterpoint Research. Apple is also working with suppliers to manufacture a growing number of components in India.
Apple’s increased activities in India reflect a broader trend of companies diversifying their manufacturing away from China, and India has grown its share of global smartphone production significantly in recent years.