There were incredible scenes of excitement and long lines as Apple opened its first store in India in Mumbai last week, with CEO Tim Cook flying in to inaugurate it and the store in Delhi a couple of days later. He also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
For Apple fans like me, it is a dream come true to see the company’s famous stores finally come to India, 25 years after Apple began selling its products here. The stores have opened after many hitches and delays over the years.
For customers, Apple stores are an experience where you wander around and try and test various devices for as long as you like. No salesperson will hassle you or follow you around as you admire the tech and the sheer scale of everything. Apple’s Mumbai store at BKC (Bandra Kurla Complex) is over 20,000 square feet, employing over 100 people. The company said the Mumbai store is one of the world’s most energy-efficient Apple Store locations, with zero reliance on fossil fuels for store operations. Apple says the store is operationally carbon neutral, running on 100 per cent renewable energy.
The opening of Apple’s first stores in India is significant for other reasons. Until now, regulatory restrictions did not allow Apple to have its standalone stores in the country. But the shift shows how important India has become as a market for the tech giant as it moves manufacturing to India, at least for the iPhones. Apple has said it is “supporting over 1 million jobs in India”.
India’s large middle-class population is a huge potential market for Apple. Estimates say 600 million people use smartphones in the country. Currently, the Indian market is dominated by cheaper Android devices, and Apple has less than 5 per cent of the market share. But as Tim Cook looks to move more manufacturing away from China, he hopes to change that.
Apple schemes to buy iPhones
Earlier this year, Cook said Apple had its best sales quarter ever for iPhones in India in the quarter ending in December. Apple’s biggest challenge, experts say, is its pricing. Let’s face it. Most people in India can’t spend over a lakh (100,000) on a phone. Which is why Tim Cook has spoken about schemes to help people pay through trade-ins (which is already happening) and instalments.
The Covid lockdowns in China and other hassles have pushed Apple to look for other manufacturing options, and India’s government has been keen for iPhone production to move here. The iPhone 14 is already being manufactured in India. In January, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said that Apple aims to manufacture 25 per cent of all of its iPhones in the country.
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There is clearly a move to expand with Apple’s primary manufacturing partner, Foxconn, building a $700 million plant for iPhone parts in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Experts say Apple’s push into India is very much like their push into China over 15 years ago.
As people lined up to see the new Mumbai store, I saw several social media users scoff at why anyone would line up for such expensive tech here. They can choose not to but owning an Apple device is also aspirational for many youngsters. The company hopes to tap into this as it looks to expand.
For loyal Apple fans, it is an experience like no other. I am thrilled the stores are here.