After years of anticipation and back-forth, Apple is finally ready to make its mark on the rapidly emerging Indian market by opening its first, self-owned and operated retail stores in the country. The tech giant has long recognized the potential of the Indian market, which boasts a young and tech-savvy population, and an ever-increasing appetite for Apple devices. With the country’s rapidly growing middle class and increasing purchasing power, Apple’s move to establish a brick-and-mortar presence in India is a strategic one that is sure to pay dividends in the years to come.

Roughly two decades after it began selling its products in the South-Asian country, Apple has officially announced its first-ever flagship retail store in what is now the world’s second-largest internet market. Called Apple BKC, the retail store will be opened in Mumbai on April 18, where Apple has already revealed the store’s banner at Jio World Drive Mall. The store is expected to open its doors this week, and visitors can celebrate the development by downloading the new Apple BKC wallpaper and moving to the “sounds of Mumbai with a specially curated playlist on Apple Music.”

It is not that India does not have Apple stores. For the past two decades or so, Apple’s official re-sellers in the country, such as Imagine, Aptronix among others, have been operating Apple retail chains across the country. However, even though these retail stores do offer a lookalike version of Apple’s own retail stores globally, they lack far behind in terms of the Apple retail experience. Apple had identified this issue long back, and is now finally coming up to speed with its self-owned and operated retail stores.

An official teaser of the same has also surfaced on the Apple India Store website with the words “Coming soon.” “Hello, Mumbai. We are getting ready to welcome you to our first store in India. And raring to see where your creativity takes you at Apple BKC,” the tech titan wrote on its website. In fact, the development is such a milestone that Tim Cook, CEO of the Cupertino-headquartered tech behemoth, will be visiting India this week to launch the stores, as well as meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and business leaders to talk about Apple’s commitment to the world’s second-largest internet market.

“At Apple, our mission is to enrich lives and empower people around the world,” Cook commented in an official statement on Monday. “India has such a beautiful culture and an incredible energy, and we’re excited to build on our long-standing history — supporting our customers, investing in local communities, and working together to build a better future with innovations that serve humanity.” His trip to India will be his first since his inaugural trip to the country almost 7 years ago.

The opening of these stores in India is long overdue, given that the world’s fifth-largest economy is one of the leading smartphone markets in the world (and continues to be dominated by low-to-mid-cost smartphones). Today, Apple supports more than 1 million developer jobs in India, while App Store payouts to the tech titan have grown by more than three times since 2018. The company is gearing up fast for the opening of the stores – the first of which opens tomorrow – to mark its “major expansion” in one of its key markets by actively hiring new blood for the stores (even as it is looking to cut jobs in some corporate retail teams, in other news).

“Inspired by the iconic Kaali Peeli taxi art unique to Mumbai, the Apple BKC creative includes colorful interpretations of the decals combined with many Apple products and services that will be available for our customers to discover,” the company further elaborated in a statement. The store will offer various products and services, including the latest iPhone 14 models, MacBooks, iPads, AirPods, Apple Watches, Apple TVs, and HomePods. Visitors will also be able to access Apple’s storied trade-in program and exchange their Apple devices to get credit towards the next purchase at the store.

And if one store is not enough, Apple also plans to launch its second store – Apple Saket – in the country. That is set to be in New Delhi on April 20. The reveal of the company’s brick-and-mortar retail footprint in the country is a significant landmark for the iPhone maker, especially since it has been betting big and trying to expand its presence on the Indian market in recent times. The past few months have seen Apple shift the manufacturing of its products away from China and to markets such as India and Taiwan. The opening of the retail store in Mumbai is quite overdue, given that its initial debut was supposed to be two years ago. However, Apple had to change its plans due to the pandemic.