Apple is opening its first physical stores in India on Tuesday as the tech giant looks to expand its sales and manufacturing presence in the world's second-largest smartphone market and fifth-largest economy.

The Cupertino, California-based company will inaugurate its first store in India in the financial capital of Mumbai on Tuesday and a second store in the national capital of Delhi on Thursday. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook is expected to travel to India for the opening of the twin outlets, CNBC reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

"Apple BKC is designed to be one of the most energy-efficient Apple Store locations in the world, with a dedicated solar array and zero reliance on fossil fuels for store operations. The store is operationally carbon neutral, running on 100% renewable energy," the tech giant said in a press release Sunday.

The store openings come even as India has emerged as a key market for the company. Apple has already identified India as a key manufacturing location amid efforts to reduce its reliance on Beijing in the aftermath of supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and Washington's relentless efforts to decouple from China's tech industry. A rising number of companies are shifting their manufacturing bases from China and diversifying their supply chains.

The company released pictures of its first store, located at Jio World Drive Mall, a lavish property owned by Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries, in Mumbai.

"So far, Indian customers were buying Apple products from either premium resellers or from the company's official website. It is exciting that the company is finally bringing physical stores to India which provide a world-class experience to customers," Rahul Bose, a Mumbai-based authorized Apple seller, told International Business Times.

"One of the most interesting aspects of the Apple BKC store is that it has more than 100 team members who speak more than 20 languages to address the concerns of customers from all over the country," he added.

CEO Cook first shared his plans to open Apple's first physical retail store in India in 2019. However, he said the company needed to get approval from the government to enter the market on their own, instead of with a domestic partner. "I don't want somebody else to run the brand for us," Cook had told shareholders in 2020.

Siddharth Kathuria, a New Delhi-based tech expert, told IBT: "The key agenda behind opening an Apple store in India is to demonstrate the wide variety of products and services offered by the company as part of the Apple ecosystem. However, it is important to note that a majority of these products are not priced for a country like India where the bulk of the market still depends on low-and mid-price range smartphones."

Apple has made deep inroads into the Indian market, which has for long been dominated by low-cost smartphones from South Korean maker Samsung and Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi. First incorporated in India in 1996, Apple is celebrating more than 25 years of its existence in the South Asian country this week.

'Made in India' shipments from Apple surged 65% year over year by volume and 162% year over year by value, accounting for a quarter (25%) of all Indian-made smartphone sales last year, as per data from the tech analysis firm Counterpoint Research. The value more than doubled compared to the company's share of that pie (21%) in 2021. As a result, Apple has emerged as the leader in the premium smartphone market (above Rs 30,000, or aout $365) in India, with sales hitting a new high of almost $6 billion in the year through March.

Earlier this year, Cook said he was very bullish on India, describing the country as a "hugely exciting market where the technology giant is putting a significant amount of energy through investments, retail and online presence."

Cook made the remarks during a February earnings call explaining Apple's results for the December quarter where the tech giant reported revenue of $117.2 billion.

"We actually did fairly well through Covid in India. And I'm even more bullish now on the other side of it, or hopefully, on the other side of it. And that's the reason why we're investing there. We're bringing retail there and bringing the online store there and putting a significant amount of energy there. I'm very bullish on India," Cook said during the call.

For Apple, opening its first official retail stores is being seen as the last leg of the company's India push, with a potent sales and local manufacturing division already in place.

Apple already made a massive manufacturing push in India last year after it began assembling its flagship iPhone 14 in the country. According to India's Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal, Apple is working to manufacture 25% of all its iPhones in India. In addition, the company officially launched its online store in India in late last year, with lucrative festive offers and back-to-school deals. Foxconn and Wistron, two of Apple's top contract makers, became the fastest-growing manufacturers in India during the last quarter of 2022, according to Counterpoint.

Tech expert Kathuria pointed out that while Apple's efforts to open physical stores in India may not improve its sales in a dramatic way, it is a key milestone for India as a major brand like Apple has decided to move out of China and shift to India. However, he said the company has to tread carefully, considering it may be a challenge to draw customers from partner sellers to the flagship stores without alienating the retailers.

While Cook continues to make advances in the Indian market, he still has to brave the risks of high import duties for manufacturing parts and finished products, which can significantly impact the retail prices and demand.

For years now, Apple has been asking the Indian government to relax certain rules and regulations on investment, particularly for companies developing "cutting-edge" items, such as iPhones. One of the rules requires foreign-owned single-brand retailers to obtain 30% of the value of products sold in India from suppliers within the country. Nonetheless, India offers a lucrative market for growth for the tech giant.

Apple has a market capitalization of around $2.6 trillion -- bigger than the the ecnomies of some G7 nations. The stock was up 0.36% at 165.80 in pre-market trading Monday at 8.17 a.m. EST.

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