A man holds Apple's new smartphones, the iPhone 11 Pro (l) and iPhone 11 Pro Max, at the Steve Jobs Theater on the group's California campus. Photo: AFP/Christoph Dernbach/dpa

Apple is looking to extend its independent repair program to India, as it looks to boosts its presence in the world’s second-largest smartphone market.

As part of the program, the repair providers will undergo free training from Apple, have access to genuine parts, tools, repair manuals and diagnostics for out-of-warranty repairs, Indo-Asian News Service reported.

They will be on par with those offered by Apple Authorized Service Providers and Apple Store locations.

Apple launched this program in the US in 2019 and later expanded it to Europe and Canada. It now has 1,500 independent repair providers in these markets and now Apple is looking to extend this program across the world wherever its products are sold.

“Apple continues to offer convenient repair options for customers through its global network of over 5,000 Apple Authorized Service Providers that help millions of people with both in- and out-of-warranty service for all Apple products,” the company said.

Sales hurdle

The iPhone maker entered the Indian market in 2008, but has failed to garner any substantial market share among price-sensitive Indian consumers. The market is dominated by Chinese handset makers like Xiaomi and BBK Electronics, which owns the Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus and Realme brands.

Apart from the pricing, the Indian government’s earlier rule banned foreign retailers from selling products directly unless they sourced at least 30% of their goods from India. This meant Apple could not set up its stores in the country.

Apple had to rely on third-party sellers and e-commerce sites such as Amazon and Flipkart to sell its products. Its products were not able to get the kind of visibility an Apple store would have provided.

However, in August 2019, India relaxed the rules and announced that single-brand retailers could now set up their own online and physical stores and they needn’t comply with the earlier threshold for locally made components.

This change in stand was reportedly after intense lobbying by Apple CEO Tim Cook and other foreign firms like Swedish home furnishing giant Ikea. Apple set up its e-commerce store in India in September last year and reportedly plans to open a physical store soon.

Interestingly, there has been an uptick in Apple’s sales numbers in India last year. According to Counterpoint Research, “Apple grew a strong 78% YoY driven by strong shipments of iPhone 11 and multiple discounts on platforms like Flipkart and Amazon. In the ultra-premium segment (45,000 rupees and above, or US$600) it was the leading brand with a market share of 55%.”

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Apple witnessed its best quarter and sold more than 1.5 million units, a 100% jump over the year-ago quarter.

Shifting base

In the backdrop of the US-China trade war, Apple is looking to diversify its production to markets such as India and Vietnam to minimize the impact. Last year, its contract manufacturers Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron were among the 22 firms that had registered for the Indian government’s production-linked incentive scheme.

Under the scheme, the government offers incentives to boost domestic manufacturing and attract large investments in mobile phone manufacturing and specified electronic components, including assembly, testing, marking and packaging units. The three Apple suppliers have committed roughly $900 million over five years to make iPhones in India.

While Foxconn and Wistron have plants in India, Pegatron is reportedly working on setting up a unit. Apple began manufacturing phones in India in 2017 at Wistron’s facility in Bangalore and later extended it to Foxconn’s plant in Chennai. There are also reports that the US tech giant is planning to bring iPad manufacturing to the country.