By Krishna N. Das and Tanvi Mehta
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – U.S. tech giant Apple <AAPL.O> could double or triple investments in India, along with exports, over the next few years, a minister said, as the company opened a second store in the world’s biggest smartphone market after China.
Apple mainly assembles iPhones in India through Taiwan contract manufacturers but plans to expand into iPads and AirPods, as it looks to cut reliance on China.
Its iPhones made up more than half of total smartphones worth about $9 billion exported from India between April 2022 and February, data from the India Cellular and Electronics Association shows.
“I am very confident that this Apple-India partnership has a lot of headroom for investments, growth, exports and jobs – doubling and tripling over coming years,” Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the deputy minister for information technology, told Reuters.
His comments came after a meeting on Wednesday with Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook in the capital, New Delhi.
Cook, who also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said Apple was “committed to growing and investing across the country”.
He inaugurated an Apple store in New Delhi on Thursday two days after opening its first outlet in Mumbai, the commercial capital.
“We’ve come here only to see Tim Cook,” said Manika Mehta, 32, an Android phone user who queued at the Delhi store.
About 500 people had gathered for Cook’s brief appearance, in which he spoke with fans and took selfies, as in Mumbai.
“My heart was skipping a beat,” said Reeti Sahai, 45, after taking a selfie. “I’m an Apple addict. I’m drawn to Tim Cook, seeing the man he is and the journey.”
Cook’s visit has drawn extensive media coverage and he has been feted like a Bollywood star, with some people trying to touch his feet in a traditional gesture of respect, while others asked for his autograph.
Apple has previously faced hurdles in opening physical retail stores in the South Asian nation, but its products have been available on e-commerce websites, while its online store opened in 2020.
The new stores open as Indian consumers increasingly look to upgrade devices to glitzier models with richer feature sets, from budget versions that typically cost less than $120.
Still, Apple’s pricey phones are affordable for only a few in India, where it has a market share of just 3%.
Apple has been trying to make India a bigger manufacturing base. Its products, including iPhones, are being assembled in India by contract electronics makers Foxconn, Wistron Corp and Pegatron Corp.
In January, India’s trade minister said Apple wanted the country to account for up to 25% of its production versus about 5% to 7% now.
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