Apple Inc is set to announce plans to expand its Indian software development center and build an accelerator program for local start-ups, two sources aware of the investment said on Tuesday, hours before Chief Executive Tim Cook’s maiden visit.
Cook, who arrives in India late on Tuesday, is making his Indian debut just as the country emerges as one of the last large growth markets in the smartphone world, while sales in the United States and China begin to taper off.
Among other officials, he is due to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi later in the week.
Over 100 million smartphones were sold in India last year, a number that is expected to grow by 25 percent this year. Sales of Apple’s iPhones – which have a two percent market share in the country – grew 56 percent in the first three months of 2016.
Earlier this year, Apple opened a development center in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, also home to Microsoft’s first India office, where engineers are working on Apple Maps.
The sources did not detail the size of the fresh investment.
The company is also expected to announce plans for a startup accelerator in India to work more closely with the Indian developer community that works on Apple’s iOS and OS X software platforms, one of the sources said.
An Apple spokesman declined to comment.
“Cook’s visit shows how important India has become for Apple and will likely set the stage for the expansion of Apple ecosystem in India,” said Vishal Tripathi, research director at Gartner.
Indian government sources said Modi is likely to press Cook to set up production facilities in India, as part of the government’s plan to find jobs for millions of Indians joining the workforce every year.
Apple is in separate talks to open its first official retail store in the world’s third-largest smartphone market.
Cook’s India visit, which one of the sources said could run into the weekend, also includes meetings with industry partners.
On Friday, Cook is expected to meet Sunil Mittal, the billionaire founder of India’s biggest mobile operator Bharti Airtel, a separate source said.
(Reporting by Himank Sharma; editing by Adrian Croft)