Apple to begin making iPhones in India by end-April, says minister

The new iPhone 7 smartphone goes on sale inside an Apple Inc. store in Los Angeles, California, US on Sept 16, 2016.
The new iPhone 7 smartphone goes on sale inside an Apple Inc. store in Los Angeles, California, US on Sept 16, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGALORE (BLOOMBERG) - Apple will begin assembling iPhones in India by the end of April, a regional minister says, heightening its focus on the world's fastest-growing major smartphone market as growth slows elsewhere.

The US company has tapped Taiwan's Wistron Corp to put together its phones in the tech capital of Bangalore in Karnataka, said Priyank Kharge, the state's information technology minister. Apple executives met with him in January and confirmed the timeline, he said in an interview.

The start of iPhone assembly in India comes after months of speculation on Apple's plan for the market, which is led by rival Samsung Electronics. It signals a renewed focus on the country, where it just scrapes into the top 10, as growth begins to slow in China and other more mature markets.

Apple is said to have put forward a long list of demands - including a 15-year tax holiday to import components and equipment - in negotiations with India's federal government.

"Apple's iPhones will be made in Bangalore and all devices will be targeted at the domestic market," said Kharge, IT minister for Karnataka, of which Bangalore is the capital. Kharge said the state will help Apple if it decides to turn to other contract manufacturers in the region.

"We did not discuss any other incentives," he said.

Apple didn't immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook said in an earnings call this week that India is "the place to be."

The company shipped 2.5 million iPhones into the country in 2016. While that is its best year ever in terms of revenues and sales, it only ranked 10th among vendors in the December quarter according Counterpoint Research. Apple accounts for less than 2 per cent of shipments in India, where an estimated 750 million smartphones will be sold by 2020.

The devices will be assembled through a plant on Bangalore's outskirts operated by Wistron, a Taiwanese contract manufacturer.