Opening Indian Apple Stores has been high up Tim Cook’s to-do list since at least 2015, and after a huge number of challenges, setbacks, and delays, it looks like we will now finally see at least two major stores open this quarter. Hiring of retail staff is underway, with some applicants already announcing their successful appointments.
Why India matters
For a long time, that didn’t much matter: the vast majority of India’s population was never going to be in a position to afford an iPhone. But, as with China before it, a rapidly growing middle-class population means that India has become an important market for Apple.
The most recent estimates by market intelligence company Counterpoint Research suggest that the iPhone 13 became the best-selling smartphone in the country in the final quarter of last year – the first time a premium phone has ever topped the sales lists.
While that’s of course still not Apple’s latest flagship, it’s a massive change over the course of just one year: the top sellers in Q4 2021 were budget models from Realme, Oppo, and Redmi, whose prices maxed out at around $200.
The long and painful journey toward Indian Apple Stores
The Indian government has never been afraid to apply protectionist measures, and it has effectively blackmailed both Apple and India by imposing strict conditions on the opening of single-brand stores.
In order to be allowed to open retail stores, the government originally said that iPhones not only had to be assembled within the country, but that a full 30% of the products sold in the stores had to be made in India. For a company like Apple, which relies heavily on a massive supply chain inside China, that was a virtually impossible goal to hit.
This left Apple dependent on authorized resellers, such as the deal with consumer electronics retail chain Croma to build Best Buy-style stores-within-a-store, with an Apple Store look and some Apple-trained specialist employees.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been personally lobbying Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi since at least 2015, trying to negotiate a relaxation of the rules. There were numerous stumbling blocks and false starts along the way, before agreement was finally reached in 2020.
This allowed Apple to launch its online store first, to great success, with the first retail store originally set to open in 2021. The pandemic then put a halt to that, initially pushing the date back to 2022, and later to 2023.
Hiring now underway
The Financial Times reports that the hiring of Apple Store staff in the country is now finally underway, with some applicants already announcing their appointments.
On Friday, Apple’s career page listed openings for 12 different job functions it seeks to fill in “various locations within India,” including technical specialist, business expert, senior manager, store leader and “genius”.
Many of the job descriptions refer directly to flagship retail operations. “The Apple Store is a retail environment like no other uniquely focused on delivering amazing customer experiences,” says one.
The 12 listings imply hundreds of job openings, as a typical Apple Store has at least 100 employees and flagship locations can have up to 1,000 workers.
Some applicants have been celebrating their success by announcing their new positions on their LinkedIn profiles. This appears to have been authorized by Apple, as the company’s head of recruitment in India, Renu Sevanthi, linked to several of them.
Counterpoint Research analyst Neil Shah said that an upward spiral was already being seen in the country, where iPhone sales are rapidly increasing, and that in turn boosts demand for other Apple products.
Since the pandemic, the number of iPhones sold in India has almost doubled. That’s driving sales of Macs, Apple Watches and iPads. There’s a positive network effect.
It’s expected that a Mumbai store will open by March, and another in New Delhi shortly afterward.
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