The new iPhone SE will look just like the iPhone 8. Photo: Shutter-stock

After pledging to increase its manufacturing activity in India, Apple Inc is now planning to open an online store next month, according to media reports. The store is expected to open ahead of the festive Dusshera-Diwali season, which falls in the October-November period.

The maker of the iconic iPhone had planned an India foray last year after the government diluted sourcing regulations for foreign direct investment in single-brand retail stores. But it had put off its plans following the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. Apple also has plans to set up physical stores in Mumbai and Bangalore.

In India, Apple currently sell its devices through third-party reseller outlets and via e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart. Selling through its own website could help Apple exert greater control over its branding in the world’s second-largest smartphone market. At a company event in February, CEO Tim Cook said that Apple would like do things its own way.

Earlier Apple’s contract manufacturers Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron had committed to investing in India under the government’s production-linked incentive scheme. The iPhone maker is looking to reduce its dependence on China amid the Sino-US tensions.

Foxconn and Wistron already have plants in India and assemble iPhones, and Pegatron is planning to set up one as well. Wistron recently started assembling Apple’s latest iPhone SE (2020) in India at its Bangalore facility. Last year Foxconn started assembling the iPhone XR at its plant in Chennai and this year it began rolling out the iPhone 11.

Local manufacturing will help Apple avoid an import duty of 20% that mobile phone manufacturers need to pay for importing their models from global markets.

According to a recent report by Counterpoint research, Apple remains the leading brand in the ultra-premium segment (about 45,000 rupees or US$600) driven by iPhone 11 shipments.