Apple is finally getting ready to open its first physical store in the country as it bets on India as a market and manufacturing base.

The company teased the opening of its retail outlet in a brief statement Wednesday, saying it was preparing to greet customers in the financial and commercial hub of Mumbai. Its previous plan to open a store in the country in 2021 was derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The company released a photograph of its new boarded-up storefront, located at Jio World Drive Mall, a property owned by Reliance Industries, the conglomerate of Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani.

“Hello Mumbai,” the statement said.

A notice outside the store said it would be “arriving soon.” Apple did not immediately respond to a request for further details, such as the opening date.

The launch would come more than 20 years since the California-based giant first entered the Indian market through third-party resellers.

For years, Apple and other foreign retailers were restricted from setting up shop in the country unless they sourced at least 30% of raw materials locally, forcing them to rely on local partners. That changed in 2019, when the Indian government relaxed some investment rules.

In 2020, the company launched an online store in India, allowing customers to buy its products and also, for the first time, customize certain devices.

CEO Tim Cook has previously pointed to the importance of starting its own retail network in the country, saying, “I don’t want somebody else to run the brand for us.”

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Manufacturing base

More recently, the company has been ramping up manufacturing in India.

It increased its exports from the country significantly last year, with the number of iPhones made and shipped from India rising 65% in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to Counterpoint Research.

Apple first began making iPhones there in 2017. But in recent months, it has expanded production after suffering severe supply chain snags in mainland China, which accounts for the bulk of its smartphone manufacturing.

Two of Apple’s top contract manufacturers, Foxconn and Wistron, were the fastest-growing manufacturers in India during the last quarter of 2022, according to Counterpoint.

Last month, Foxconn CEO Young Liu spent a week in the country and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The southern state of Karnataka said Foxconn had announced a major deal during Liu’s visit and that 300 acres of land had been allocated for a facility.

According to a report from Bloomberg citing unnamed sources, the Taiwanese company plans to invest about $700 million on a new plant in the state capital of Bengaluru to make iPhone parts.

An Indian government minister said in January that Apple was hoping to boost its output in India to a quarter of its overall total from somewhere between 5% and 7%. Apple did not respond to a request for comment at the time.

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Room for growth

As a market for iPhones, however, India still has a long way to go.

Apple leads sales of premium smartphones in India, with the iPhone 13 ranking as the country’s overall bestseller in the segment last year, according to Counterpoint.

But the company lags behind other brands in the overall market, which is led by Xiaomi and Samsung, the research firm said.

Apple accounted for just 1% of India’s smartphone market in 2019, and may notch more than 5% this year, Prachir Singh, a Counterpoint senior analyst, added.

He said its market share could grow as it opens its own stores in the country, particularly as Mumbai is the second largest Indian market for Apple after Delhi.

“Apple will be able to control the end-to-end user experience, and this will further take its brand image one level up,” Singh said.

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