Tim Cook visits India to expand Apple’s local presence

On Monday, Apple opened its first-ever retail shop in Mumbai.

Tim Cook visits India to expand Apple’s local presence
People walk past the barricade of India's first Apple retail store, that will be launched soon, at Jio World Drive Mall, Mumbai, India, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

The backstory: As the tensions between the US and China continue to brew, several tech giants are looking for alternative production hubs to dodge the government's relationship problems. With that, India, with its second-largest smartphone market, is emerging as an attractive option for companies like Apple. This is especially after the Indian government announced US$6.7 billion in production-linked incentives (PLIs) in 2020, giving companies cash for smartphones sold that were made in India.

More recently: Apple only has a tiny 4% share of India's smartphone market because there are local players as well as other international players all wanting a piece of that Indian pie. So, to up its game, Apple rolled out an online store in India in 2020 and pumped up iPhone production through contract manufacturers (companies hired to produce the phone). And guess what? These moves paid off big time as iPhones made up more than half of the US$9 billion worth of smartphones exported from India between April 2022 and February 2023, according to the India Cellular and Electronics Association.

The development: On Monday, Apple opened its first-ever retail shop in Mumbai, a massive 20,800 square feet store. It's located in the Reliance Jio World Drive mall and officially opened to the public on Tuesday, with another store set to open in a New Delhi mall on Thursday.

According to anonymous insiders, Apple CEO Tim Cook will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the deputy IT minister to discuss Apple's future plans in the country. And considering its revenue in India increased almost 50% from a year earlier to a staggering US$6 billion, it's clear – there's some dough to be made here.

Key comments:

"Apple sales in India are typically driven by iPhones and wearable devices, but over the past two years its MacBook enterprise business has also started gaining steam," said Navkendar Singh, an analyst at researcher IDC. "We can expect Apple to push hard on its sales and marketing levers to continue the surge in sales."

"India is a hugely exciting market for us and a major focus," said Apple CEO Tim Cook during an earnings call in February. "I'm very bullish on India."

"All major companies are now looking at India as part of their 'China-plus one' or 'China-plus two' strategy," said Aruna Sundararajan last September, who was a federal government secretary in 2017 when Apple initiated iPhone assembly in India. "For the long run, we need to strengthen our logistics and infrastructure, boost the human capital and focus more on building an export hub to make India a viable alternative to China."