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Apple CEO Tim Cook visiting India, an important growth market

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Apple Inc chief executive officer Tim Cook will unveil a development center for digital maps during his multiday visit to India this week, a person with knowledge of the trip said, as he seeks to make further inroads in the world's fastest-growing smartphone market.

[BANGALORE] Apple Inc chief executive officer Tim Cook will unveil a development center for digital maps during his multiday visit to India this week, a person with knowledge of the trip said, as he seeks to make further inroads in the world's fastest-growing smartphone market.

Mr Cook is on his first official trip to the country, where he will also introduce an accelerator program for iOS developers.

The maps centre will be based in Hyderabad. Apple, which is seeking to open retail stores in the country, has also been facing opposition to its efforts to import and sell refurbished iPhones in India.

The CEO is planning to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, although that schedule hasn't been finalised because the results of several Indian state assembly elections are due this week, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the information is not yet public.

"Mr Cook is certainly going to come with an agenda," said Vishal Tripathi, a research director at Gartner India.

"High on that list is permission to open Apple Stores in India, bring up the closed chapter of importing and selling refurbished phones in the country and also explore what's in it for Apple if it brings assembly and manufacturing to the country."

Top executives from Facebook, Alibaba Group Holding and other global technology firms from have trekked to India to meet Mr Modi these past few months.

India is on the cusp of become a potentially huge consumer market, as more of the country's 1.3 billion people move into the middle class.

"For Apple and other technology makers, India may not yet be a China - but it is an under-penetrated market where per capita income and purchasing power are going up offering huge growth opportunities," Mr Tripathi said.

Cook's trip comes on the heels of a deal struck in China this month, where Apple is investing US$1 billion in car-hailing app Didi. The CEO has said in the past that he sees India as where China was seven to 10 years ago.

While Apple's iPhone sales declined globally for the first time ever in the first three months of 2016, shipments in India grew 56 per cent in the period.

BLOOMBERG