Apple to start assembling iPhones in India

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An Apple iPhone SE advertisement billboard in New Delhi. PHOTO: ANINDITO MUKHERJEE/REUTERS.

NEW YORK: Even as President Donald Trump has made clear his displeasure over American companies manufacturing overseas, Apple Inc. is set to start assembling iPhones in India for the first time.

Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron Corp. will likely start making iPhone 6 and 6S models in India in the next four-to-six weeks at its plant in Bangalore, said an official of Karnataka. It will add Apple’s cheapest iPhone model, the SE, to its assembly line in about three months, the official said, reported The Wall Street Journal.

“Almost all preparations have been done for launching Apple’s first phase project in Bangalore through Wistron,” the official told The Wall Street Journal.

“We’ve been working hard to develop our operations in India,” an Apple spokeswoman told the Journal, declining to comment on the company’s specific plans for India.

With sales cooling in China, long an engine for Apple’s growth, manufacturing iPhones locally would help Apple address what analysts say is its biggest problem in India: its smartphones are simply too expensive for the vast majority of people.

Smartphone shipments in India grew 18% last year, compared with 3% globally, according to Counterpoint Research, but the majority of phones sold cost less than $150. The iPhone SE, which some online retailers now sell for as low as $330, is still out of reach of most Indian consumers.

Apple is also negotiating with New Delhi for its next level of production in India. It wants to bring its component manufacturers to India to make parts and export finished phones, according to sources who spoke to the Wall Street Journal.

Apple had sought tax concessions on the import of key components but the Indian government hasn’t yet “accepted most of the demands of the iPhone manufacturer,” trade minister Nirmala Sitharaman told lawmakers in a written submission to Parliament on Wednesday.