Home / Companies / Apple may launch payments service in India soon, eyes local partnerships

Apple Inc. is eyeing a piece of India’s rapidly booming digital payments business and may launch its Apple Pay service in the near future, even as the iPhone maker looks to boost its presence in India, where it already has a manufacturing facility.

In an interview at Apple’s Hyderabad development centre, Apple senior vice-president Eddy Cue said the company wants to launch Apple Pay in India in the near future without giving a specific date.

“Our head of Apple Pay, Jennifer Bailey, is here with me. And Apple Pay is something that we definitely want in India. The challenge with payment mechanisms is that there isn’t really a lot of global scale. You deal with individual markets at a time... but India is one of those markets where we hope to bring Apple Pay to," said Cue, an Apple veteran of nearly three decades who heads the company’s Internet software and services business.

To launch Apple Pay in India, the company will look to partner and integrate its payments service with established players in the country like Paytm, rather than build a new payments solution from scratch, Cue said.

“You have some great payment mechanisms today and we will leverage all of that in doing this. That’s one of the advantages that we have with Apple Pay—Apple Pay isn’t trying to come up with a brand new payment vehicle, so the fact that people like Paytm are doing well here is great. The fact that credit cards are doing well here is great. We just need to integrate with the popular ones and make the service available," said Cue, who reports directly to Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

Apple’s plans to get a slice of the digital payments business in India comes at a time when the company is already ramping up in the country.

Apple has already started initial production of its iPhone SE model in Bengaluru and has also started shipping the models to local customers. In February, the government of Karnataka had announced Apple’s proposal to start manufacturing operations in Bengaluru. The phones are being manufactured for Apple by Wistron, a Taiwanese original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

Last year, Apple also launched a so-called app accelerator in Bengaluru, as part of a push to tap the country’s developer ecosystem. Last week, Apple launched two new so-called Mac Labs in Chennai and Mumbai, as part of the company’s broader strategy to help identify and unearth talented musicians who are not part of Bollywood and do not have big budgets at their disposal. Mac Labs will teach students to create music using Apple’s software and music apps.

“We have music people in Delhi and also in Mumbai just dedicated to music. We’ve expanded the team—we had zero people here two years ago and we’re in the tens now and we’ll continue to expand," said Cue, who over the years has been instrumental in helping create a wide range of services at Apple, including its online store, the iTunes store and the App Store.

“At the Apple level, India is an incredible opportunity... because what we’re seeing is huge advancements in digitization, bypassing older technologies to newer technologies and we think that we have a really great product that can help move things even faster. And that’s the reason I’m here, that’s the reason (CEO) Tim (Cook) came here before. That’s the reason why Tim will be back and I will be back. We view this as a very long-term opportunity but with very short-term gains that we can have here," added Cue.

Apple is also leveraging India’s technology and engineering talent in a big way for its Apple Maps service—much like rivals Google Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., which also have facilities in Hyderabad, with engineers who are working on their respective mapping services.

“So, we have really invested a lot in Maps and one of the areas that we thought was a great opportunity to invest in was here. We now have over 4,000 people working on Apple Maps. We wanted a place where we could scale fast, but also had the technical capabilities and chops to do the work really, really well. Honestly, it has surpassed our expectations by any measure. When you look at the quality of people coming in, it’s better than what we thought," said Cue.

Read the full interview here.

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