Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) is planning to expand its global presence by tripling the number of stores in India. According to The Economic Times , there are currently more than 65 exclusive stores in the nation.
The "exclusive" designation has been applied because they are not typical retail outlets. While the American hubs are built and owned by Apple, the company is legally barred from opening its own stores in India because it does not source at least 30 percent of its products from the nation. To get around that and still offer a presence in India, the company allowed 17 franchisees to open dozens of exclusive locations throughout the country.
Apple's Indian stores do not currently resemble their international counterparts, which are outfitted with large glass windows and a bright, white décor. The company plans to change this by sending its global suppliers to India to help franchise owners remodel their exclusive outlets.
The new stores are expected to be open by 2015. It is not yet known how long it will take the franchisees to remodel their existing locations.
Brian Bade, CEO of Reliance Digital (Apple's largest premium reseller), currently operates 20 exclusive outlets. He told The Economic Times that after consolidating his company's operations, his firm is "currently looking at several properties for Apple stores."
"The existing stores and newer ones will be remodeled with newer fixtures that Apple uses in some of its best stores internationally to provide a far superior consumer experience," he said.
Bade was reluctant to say how many stores he would open, but three unnamed sources told ET that there should be roughly 200 exclusive Apple retailers in India by 2015.
The iPhone maker is also expected to continue expanding its presence in China, where it faces the greatest number of challenges -- including dozens of fake stores posing as real Apple outlets.
Tim Cook, the man who took over as CEO when Steve Jobs stepped down, has repeatedly stated the importance of the Chinese market. Cook firmly believes that China is Apple's most significant market. Long-term, he might be right.
In addition to the existing sales potential (329 million smartphones are expected to be sold in China this year), Apple also hopes to cash in on China's growing middle class.
In January 2012, CNNMoney reported that the average amount of disposable income per capita rose from $760 in 2000 to $3,000 in 2010. That growth is allowing more and more Chinese citizens to buy expensive electronics -- including those produced by Apple.
Not to be outdone, the McKinsey Global Institute projects that India's middle class population will rise from the current estimate of 50 million (less than five percent of the country's total population) to 583 million by 2030.
Louis Bedigian is the Senior Tech Analyst and Features Writer of Benzinga. You can reach him at 248-636-1322 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @LouisBedigianBZ
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