NEW DELHI, India: The gleaming glass atriums and blue-clad “geniuses” that herald the arrival of an Apple store could soon be landing in India, after the government cleared the way for it to open in the rapidly growing smartphone market.
Before now, the Silicon Valley giant has been just a bit-player in the country of 1.2 billion, selling through local shops with none of its own.
It applied to open stores in January, but was reportedly rebuffed because of a diktat that states foreign retailers must source 30 percent of their products locally.
But on Monday New Delhi relaxed the rules, just weeks after Apple chief Tim Cook toured India on a breathless charm offensive where he was pictured using Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s gold iPhone to launch the premier’s own app.
Companies making state-of-the-art technology — understood to include Apple — now have up to eight years to meet the sourcing requirements under a waiver, part of a push by India’s pro-business government to attract foreign investment and create jobs.
While analysts say it currently accounts for only around 1 percent of global iPhone sales, its giant population and low number of smartphone owners relative to its size mean it is a huge potential market.
With a basic iPhone starting at almost $600 — more than in many countries, thanks to India’s high taxes — they are wildly unaffordable for most in a nation where average incomes are less than $1,600 a year.