New Delhi: Even after the finance ministry rejected Apple Inc’s request to waive a 30% local sourcing norm to set up its own branded retail stores in India, it seems the final word is yet to be said on the matter.

Replying to a question at a Cabinet press briefing on media reports that Apple might back out from its plan of setting up retail stores in India, communications and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “As ministers or government representatives we are not supposed to comment on speculative media reports. I only stand by the public commitment of its CEO (Tim Cook) that ‘I want to have a one-thousand-year-old relationship with India’. I wish to share his exuberance about India. India is the most rising world market in the field of electronics and mobile technology. Just trust that. The detail part of it, we can work out separately."

The Indian government is unhappy as Apple is yet to commit to manufacturing iPhones in India which the government wants to push under its Make In India programme.

Commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday indicated that her ministry stands by its decision to recommend to the finance ministry a waiver of the local sourcing norm for Apple under the “cutting edge technology" criteria. “We took a line that we would not mind waiving the 30% local sourcing norm for Apple. Now, the finance ministry has taken a different position. We will examine the matter in consultation with the finance ministry," she said.

However, Sitharaman rejected Apple’s proposal to sell refurbished iPhones in the country. “We are not in favour of any company selling used phones in the country, however certified they may be," she added.

Apple sells its products in India through exclusive reselling arrangements with chains such as Imagine and iStore (owned by Reliance Digital). Sales in India, growing at 56% in the latest quarter, were a lone bright spot for Apple, as the company reported its first quarterly revenue drop in 13 years last month.

Apple’s interest in selling refurbished phones and opening branded stores in India shows the increased importance of India for the company. Its sales in India crossed the $1 billion mark for the first time last year, according to filings with the Registrar of Companies.

In 2012, Apple India changed its sales model by appointing retail distributors and began advertising campaigns. Since then, its sales have been rising at a double-digit pace and Apple executives have acknowledged the importance of Indian operations on analyst calls several times.

Apple has a minuscule share of under 2% in India’s smartphone market. Rival Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd is the leader.

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