Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) last month confirmed its plans of applying for permission to open stores in India, and now it is really close to winning clearance for opening its first retail stores there, says a report from Bloomberg citing a person familiar with the matter. Apple CEO Tim Cook is pretty keen to make it big in India, a nation with 1.3 billion people.
India a big market, but a challenge
The Indian government plans to push through Apple’s application to set up outlets, the report says. Apple’s request was not in the right format; therefore, it is required to resubmit the application, but the time frame for the final approval remains unknown.
Last month, Apple for the first time in more than a decade forecast a decline in sales last month, after which Cook is looking for fresh sources of growth. India is among the fastest-growing economies in the world with about 220 million smartphone users. However, Indian consumers have a stronger preference for cheaper devices, and this will be a big challenge for the U.S. firm.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Tarun Pathak, a senior analyst at Counterpoint Technology Market Research, said, “Most of the growth in India will come from new users coming into the Apple ecosystem, unlike in the West where growth is mainly from existing users upgrading. You can expect the stores to focus mostly on iPhones.”
Pathak said that to bring in more new users, the U.S. company might continue the policy of giving a discount on older models such as the iPhone 5s. Chinese volumes are 15 times that of India, suggesting there is room to grow.
Apple may be exempted from local procuring
Apple should qualify as a provider of cutting-edge technology, and this could save it from the rule that forces foreign businesses that sell a single brand in India to procure 30% of a product’s inputs locally. Most of the company’s devices are manufactured in China.
Presently, Apple uses resellers to sell its products in India. Apple stores are expected to produce the highest revenue-per-square-foot in the U.S. brick-and-mortar retail industry. In addition, the stores promote the brand by holding workshops for customers. Presently, Apple has about 24 stores in China as part of a global network of more than 460.
On Friday, Apple shares closed down 2.67% at $94.02. The stock has a 52-week high of $134.54 and a 52-week low of $92.