BANGALORE, India -- Fans of Apple Inc.'s products in India may soon get a taste of what it's like to walk into a company store, albeit a small one, quite unlike the reseller stores that sell the company's products in the world's third-largest smartphone market.
Apple doesn't have any company-owned stores in India, where it relies on "premium resellers," large retail chains and the standalone electronics stores to sell its products. India's rules on foreign direct investment in retail -- requiring significant local sourcing -- are widely seen to be one reason why an Apple-owned store hasn't materialized in the country, while China has some 40 such outlets.
Apple has now partnered with India's salt-to-steel conglomerate Tata Group to open stores within the Indian group's Croma multi-brand electronics retail store chain, the Economic Times reported Monday, citing the CEO of Infiniti Retail, the Tata unit that operates the Croma stores.
The first of the Apple stores, measuring about 500 square feet in size, with the same design as Apple's stores in the U.S., will likely come up as early as next month in six locations in India, the newspaper reported. Five are to be in Mumbai, the country's financial capital, and one in Bangalore.
"These stores will be modeled on the global design and will offer the best experience to consumers, showcasing the entire range of Apple products," Economic Times cited Avijit Mitra, CEO of Infiniti Retail, as saying.
Mitra wasn't immediately available for comment. An Apple spokesman couldn't immediately be reached on phone and an email to the company hadn't elicited a response at the time of publishing this report.
Over the last three years, Apple has stepped up its sales and marketing in India, hiring national level distributors, making iPhones available in several additional stores in each city and town it's targeted, and teaming up with carriers and banks to make its phones easier to buy in a market where phones are bought off-contract.
The company now typically releases its products, particularly the iPhones, in India within a month or two of the U.S. release.
The iPhone 6S will go on sale in India on Oct. 16 -- and the 16GB version of the phone will cost as much as 62,000 rupees ($957) -- and retailers including Croma, and online sites such as Flipkart and Amazon are taking pre-orders.