Apple chief executive Tim Cook began a week-long trip to India on Wednesday with the announcement that the company would open a centre in Bangalore to support app makers as it looks to expand in one of the world's fastest-growing smartphone markets.
The US technology giant said it would set up by early 2017 a design and development accelerator for the company's IOS operating system for mobile devices in India's information technology hub.
The initiative would feature an Apple team working alongside Indian developers to improve the quality and performance of their apps, Apple India spokesman Anand Baskaran said.
"With the opening of this new facility ... we’re giving developers access to tools which will help them create innovative apps for customers around the world," said Cook, who spent the day at business meetings in India's financial hub Mumbai.
The Apple leader was likely to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday besides making trips to Bangalore and Hyderabad, home to some of the country's most successful start-ups, NDTV news channel reported.
Cook, who began his India trip with a visit to Siddhi Vinayak Mandir, one of Mumbai's most popular temples dedicated to the elephant god Ganesha, was scheduled to meet Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry and film star Shah Rukh Khan, NDTV reported.
Cook's trip comes at a time when the company is facing a global slowdown and is looking for new growth markets in India and China.
Apple imports the devices it sells in India and the government which recently rejected the company's request to sell refurbished phones is keen that it sets up production facilities that would boost the Make in India campaign to encourage manufacturing.
Apple’s manufacturing partner, Foxconn, is present in India and has looked at expanding its manufacturing capacities in the country.
"Make in India is going to be important (for Apple)," Neil Shah of technology research firm Counterpoint Research, said. "There were 100 million smartphones sold in India in 2015 and Apple's share was just 2 per cent."
Shah said if Apple started manufacturing iPhones in India they could cut down the 12 per cent import duty and lower costs.
"The demand is huge, but the bulk of smartphones (about 75 per cent) are below 150 dollars," Shah said, adding that even discounted iPhones begin at around 270 dollars.
"Already Foxconn is assembling phones in India. It's natural that Apple uses these facilities to start manufacturing. For that Apple needs to get close to the government," Shah said.
Cook was expected to give an outline of his company’s investment plans during his meeting with Modi, the Times of India reported.
Though India is a small market for Apple it is currently one of its fastest growing with sales surging 56 per cent January to March 2016 year on year.
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