India's finance minister has reportedly ratified a proposal that would allow single-brand retailers like Apple to be exempt for local sourcing rules for three years if they provide "cutting-edge" technology.
Apple should now be able to resubmit an application to open stores with better odds, Bloomberg sources said on Wednesday. The company's first attempt to get a greenlight for retail was shot down after the finance ministry wasn't ready to grant such an exemption. That led Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to intervene, setting the stage for the ongoing turnaround.
Normally Indian regulations require that foreign single-brand retailers source at least 30 percent of their goods or components locally. That's currently impossible for Apple, which has only just begun to tap Indian suppliers. The vast majority of its parts and manufacturing are handled by companies in China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.
Its main manufacturing partner, Foxconn, is believed to be working towards an Apple-focused factory in India, but that complex may take 18 months or more to start operations if and when it's approved.
Despite some progress, the Indian market has proven tough for Apple, owing mostly to the price of its products. Whereas many phones sold there cost the equivalent of $150 or less, even the iPhone SE is far more expensive. The company has resorted to keeping older models on sale as result, in some cases well after they've been pulled from shelves in other countries.