Weeks after ET revealed that Apple has applied to the government to set up its fabled stores in India, its chief executive officer Tim Cook has confirmed the same, signaling India's elevation in the Cupertino-based smartphone maker's consciousness as one of its key growth markets.
In a townhall meeting with Apple employees held at Infinite Loop headquarters in Cupertino in the days following the first quarter earnings, Cook said that Apple was in "early preparations" to bring its retail stores to India, according to report by 9to5Mac, which tracks developments at Apple very closely.
Cook singled out India as "one of Apple's most important growth areas for the next decade", underlining its importance given its favourable demographics and surging smartphone sales.
Apple's top boss also said India unlike many emerging markets had 4G mobile services and it which therefore "gives Apple the opportunity to push its latest devices to regions like India".
Cook also fielded audience questions, attempting to reduce concerns related to the company's iPhone dependence, and discussed porting more Apple services to Android and releasing cheaper iPhones to appease growing markets.
India is the world's fastest growing smartphone market, having surpassed the US in 2015 as the second largest by unique active users worldwide. This would make a strong case for Apple's famed retail stores, distinct for its look, feel and customer experience, to come up as the brand enjoys a very strong aspiration value, especially among the youth.
Apple has applied for the single brand retail license, which once granted, will allow it to open its own stores here. Currently, Apple sells its iPhone, iPad, Mac and other products through third-party resellers in the country. But with the government easing up foreign investment rules on single brands and relaxing mandatory local procurement conditions for high-tech companies, the doors are now open for Apple to make a direct foray.
Apple posted its best ever quarterly sales in India recently, with volumes crossing 800,000 units for the three month period to end-December 2015. During this period, sales in developed markets faltered. Revenue in India surged 38%, albeit on a smaller base, compared with 11% growth in overall emerging markets and 14% in Greater China, its second-largest market after the US.
iPhone sales volumes grew 76% in India compared with 45% in Korea, the Middle East and Africa, 20% in several western European countries and 18% in mainland China, in the October-December quarter.
"During hard times like now, it provides an opportunity to invest in newer markets such as India where there are long-term prospects," Cook said during the first quarter earnings last month, acknowledging the potential of the Indian market.
"India is quickly becoming the fastest-growing BRIC nation, the third-largest smartphone market behind China and the US, and the median age of the population is 27 compared to 36-37 in China," he added.
Apple has been making aggressive price cuts on older devices such as iPhone 5s and even cut prices on iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models after consumers were deterred by the high cost of new models. It's also increasing availability, including online besides giving greater flexibility to retailers and distributors on pricing.