Apple ups its ante in India. Here’s what Tim Cook’s visit looked like

Tim Cook launched the first Apple Store in India on Monday in Mumbai, with another store to be inaugurated in New Delhi later this week.
19 April 2023

Apple ups its ante in India. Here’s what Tim Cook’s visit resembles. (Photo by Punit PARANJPE / AFP)

Apple marks 25 years of involvement in India this week. Being in the world’s second-largest smartphone market for over a quarter of a century means that the tech giant is pretty well versed with the nation’s know-how. Ironically then, it wasn’t until this week that the biggest public company in the world commemorated its first official retail store in the world’s most populous country.

But as the saying goes, better late than never. In the last 25 years, Apple has relied solely on third-party sellers to get its phones into the hands of Indian consumers. “Apple’s first two retail stores in India will open this week in Mumbai and Delhi, welcoming customers from all over the country and around the world to discover the best of Apple,” the company said on April 17, 2023. 

To commemorate the opening of both stores, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook visited India. “India has such a beautiful culture and an incredible energy, and we’re excited to build on our long-standing history — supporting our customers, investing in local communities, and working together to build a better future with innovations that serve humanity,” Cook said.

Cook landed in Mumbai in the small hours of Monday, spending a day in the city ahead of the inauguration of the first store in Bandra Kurla Complex. He met Indian leaders, including Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, and Manoj Modi, director of Reliance Retail and Reliance Jio. 

A new Apple retail store is pictured on the eve of its opening in Mumbai on April 17, 2023. (Photo by Punit PARANJPE / AFP)

A new Apple retail store is pictured on the eve of its opening in Mumbai on April 17, 2023. (Photo by Punit PARANJPE / AFP)

Local reports indicated that Cook even met N Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons, among others. The Tata Group is getting ready to start manufacturing Apple phones in India. Following Mumbai’s store launch, Cook is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a few ministers during the Delhi leg of his India visit later this week.

The rise and rise of Apple in India

Experts believe India is at an inflection point, where China was in July 2008 when Apple opened its first retail store there. Bloomberg is reporting that sales for Apple in India over the past year through March 31 climbed around 50%, to almost US$6 billion. Citing someone familiar with the matter, Bloomberg said it is an impressive jump given the global slump in gadget sales across all categories. 

Even then, it only makes up 1.6% of company-wide revenue and around 8% of the scale of what the iPhone maker currently gets in Greater China. Opening both stores this week — in Mumbai and New Delhi — is seen as either driving business in an important market or simply jumping on the bandwagon of existing growth. All of this is taking place against the backdrop of Cook’s push for suppliers such as Foxconn Technology Group, Wistron Corp., and Pegatron Corp. to ramp up output in the country. 

Apple has a minuscule share in India, about 4% of the country’s nearly 700 million smartphone users. Cheaper local brands and Chinese and South Korean manufacturers lead the world’s second-biggest mobile market. The upside, however, is that the tech giant ranked first in unit sales of devices above US$365 last year, according to researcher Counterpoint

Last week, analysts at JPMorgan Chase published a report describing how a push to move manufacturing and supply chains away from China has been underway “since late 2018, led by geopolitical issues, then a pandemic and now new geopolitical issues rearing their ugly head.” They expected a sustained shift and estimated that a quarter of Apple’s products will be made outside China by 2025, compared with less than 5% today, “with Vietnam and India slated as countries of choice.”