Apple looking to rapidly expand in India, a report says

Apple (s AAPL) is planning to enter small towns in India and open many “stores” in the country, according to a report in the Economic Times, an Indian business newspaper. Apple, the report said, is looking to expand beyond the big towns and is planning to team up with retail chains and create stores-within-stores.

The company met with management of twenty major retail chains and wants to set-up 100 stores in 50 smaller towns, the report adds. A report earlier this year said that Apple wanted 200 of such small stores by 2015. Apple, at present, has no official Apple stores in the country. Apple will sell its iPhone and iPad product lines (along with accessories) at these stores. Apple wants to bring in $1 billion in sales in India in 2013.

Apple, has remained too enamored with China for too long, and has missed an opportunity in India. I said so in a post in February 2013 when I went to visit my parents. Apple’s rapid push comes at a time when the Indian economy is going through a major slowdown. It would be a challenge for Apple to grow its presence and sales amidst an economic downturn, but there is some good news: in 2012, Indians bought 19 million smartphones. And data from IDC shows that by 2016, that number of smartphones sold to Indians will be around 108 million. Samsung, currently is the clear market leader in India with about 36 percent of the smartphone market, while Apple’s share is somewhere between 2 and 5 percent, the paper adds.