Apple has filed an application with the Indian government to open an online store and its first retail store in the country which is seen by the iPhone maker as one of the biggest opportunities for growth in the Indian smartphone market in the coming years.

Apple India has filed an application with the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP), though the location of the first store is unknown at the moment. Speaking to the Economic Times, DIPP secretary Amitabh Kant said, "We have just received Apple's proposal. We are examining it." The application also covers the launch of an Indian version of Apple's online store.

The launch of an Apple-branded store was only made possible in November when the Indian government relaxed its Made in India rules -- restrictions that required 30 percent of products to be sourced locally for companies looking to set up shop in the country. Apple currently sells its products through a network of stores-within-stores as a way of circumventing the Indian government restrictions.

India will very soon be the world’s second biggest smartphone market in terms of ownership. With a population of 1.2 billion and smartphone penetration under 20 percent, it holds big potential for companies that are increasingly seeing their markets saturated elsewhere in the world -- even in China.

India, with a population of 1.2 billion people and a smartphone penetration of just 20 percent, is seen by most smartphone manufacturers as the next big growth market following the slowdown in China. Apple currently has a 2 percent smartphone market share in India, shipping 1.7 million iPhones to the country in the last fiscal year, up from 1.1 million the previous year, according to CounterPoint Research.

Just two-and-a-half years ago iPhones were only selling in the thousands in India but Apple then switched gears, contracting with multiple, national-level distributors, partnering with banks to back financing, offering deep discounts on older models, boosting marketing and providing buyback plans.