CEO Tim Cook to open first Apple stores in India in pivot beyond China

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has scheduled a trip to open the iPhone maker’s first stores in India next week, underscoring the company’s ambitions for the country as a growth market and manufacturing base.

Cook is likely to preside over the opening of the twin outlets in India’s financial and political capital, people familiar with the matter said, asking to remain anonymous discussing private plans.

Apple said Tuesday it’ll open a store in Mumbai on April 18 and another in New Delhi on April 20.

The trip comes seven years after the CEO’s maiden visit in 2016 and coincides with the world’s most valuable company hitting important markers: India sales of iPhones reaching an all-time high and annual iPhone exports from the country reaching billions of dollars.

Apple is betting on India to diversify its assembly operations beyond China amid strained Beijing-Washington relations.

Cook is set to open Apple’s first India store inside an upscale mall in the Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex, or BKC as the neighborhood is called. A few days after that, he is set to unlock the doors on the New Delhi store, in a high-end mall in the Saket neighborhood. That store’s barricades lifted on Tuesday.

The two stores have been a long time in the making as India’s strict rules forbid global brands from opening own-brand outlets unless they source a significant portion of the goods from within the country.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Cook’s visit.

The company opened its Indian online store in 2020. The country is the world’s second-largest smartphone market and among the fastest-growing, but Apple’s relatively high sticker prices are still a deterrent in the nation of 1.4 billion where affordability plays a major role in purchase decisions.

In between the two store inaugurals, Apple has sought a meeting for Cook with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said one of the people.

Modi’s government has been pushing for electronics manufacturing and has offered billions of dollars in incentives to attract Apple’s manufacturing partners like Foxconn Technology Group and Pegatron Corp.

On Apple earnings calls, Cook has stressed India’s importance as a market and production base. During the latest such conference, Cook said Apple set “a quarterly revenue record and grew very strong double digits year over year in the country.”

“India is a hugely exciting market for us and a major focus,” Cook said on the call. “I’m very bullish on India.”

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