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Finally, Apple has some good news for Indian techies

Quartz india
Quartz india

After making a $1 billion bet on one startup in China, Tim Cook has made his way to India. But the Apple CEO, who is on his first official trip to the country, has so far not made any big bang promises in the world’s second-largest smartphone market. Instead, he began his trip with a rather hazy announcement on the launch of a mobile app development centre.

On May 18, Apple announced the establishment of a design and development accelerator in Bengaluru, which will provide specialised support to iOS app developers in India.

“India is home to one of the most vibrant and entrepreneurial iOS development communities in the world,” Cook, who arrived in India late on May 18, said in a statement. “With the opening of this new facility in Bengaluru, we’re giving developers access to tools which will help them create innovative apps for customers around the world.”

Bengaluru is India’s technology capital and houses a major chunk of the country’s startups. More than a million people in the city are employed in the tech sector and 40% of local graduates specialise in engineering and information technology, the statement said.

The accelerator, which should be up and running by early 2017, looks to be the first-of-its-kind setup by Apple globally but details are sketchy. “Each week, Apple experts will lead briefings and provide one-on-one app reviews for developers,” Apple’s statement said. The company hasn’t provided any indication on the size of the team that’ll be based in Bengaluru or how much this project will cost. Quartz has emailed Apple for more information.

So far, Apple has had limited engagement with Indian developers. However, earlier this month the company met with 40 Indian entrepreneurs at its headquarters to discuss mobile app development, Quartz reported on May 11.

The latest announcement is also proof of Apple’s newfound focus on India. Although India accounts for only about 1% of global iPhone sales, the country is being touted as the next growth driver for the company, especially since China—Apple’s second-largest market—is slowing down.

However, in the days leading up to Cook’s visit to India, the media had expected some big bang announcements on investments and strengthening of distribution partners. That has not happened so far. Apple is also hamstrung by Indian regulations. The company is yet to open a direct store in the country because Indian regulations require 30% of the goods in the store to be sourced locally. Apple’s request to sell affordable, refurbished devices in price-sensitive India has also been rejected by the government.

Thumbs up!

But for India’s thriving entrepreneur community, Apple’s move is good news. Most online and web-focused startups are betting big on mobile apps with India surpassing the US as the second-largest smartphone market.

“Thumbs up to Apple! The ecosystem welcomes this terrific initiative!” Ravi Gururaj, an executive council member of NASSCOM, an industry representing the Indian IT sector, said in a Facebook post. “This is a huge market opportunity for our developers.”

Snapdeal’s co-founder Kunal Bahl was just as effusive. “Apple’s expert guidance on the interface and user experience has helped us build an app that our consumers love. We are thrilled Apple will have a local presence which will amplify our efforts to develop more high-quality apps for our digital commerce ecosystem,” Bahl said in the statement released by Apple.

Meanwhile, Cook is likely to meet Indian prime minister Narendra Modi later this week. So more announcements might be just around the corner.

This story was updated at 9:45 am ET with background on the regulations hamstringing Apple’s India plans, and with a new headline that reflects this.

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