Apple has outdone itself with its Delhi, Mumbai stores

Apple has outdone itself with its Delhi, Mumbai stores

In a bid to make the entire experience more interactive, the stores will host ‘Today At Apple’ sessions — led by real creators, not marketing and sales executives.


Apple BKC store, Mumbai. | @Apple

Apple’s first wholly owned stores in India have opened. Both Apple BKC and Apple Saket were launched in India to great pomp with Tim Cook personally present. Apple’s CEO was also accompanied by Deirdre O’Brien, its senior VP for retail and people. The fact that two of the most senior Apple executives were in India for almost a week and interacted with local creator, influencer, and corporate community, apart from hobnobbing with the Indian government officials, including Prime Minister Modi, shows how important India is as a market for Apple and how the tech giant’s strategy revolves around these stores.

Both stores are powered entirely by renewable energy, aligning with Apple’s 2030 carbon neutrality goal. In fact, Apple claims the Mumbai store is its most sustainable one yet, with a massive solar panel array outside the facility that powers it. The Delhi store too is powered by a solar array. They also cater to local customs, such as employing a door man, something that’s not present at most Apple stores across the world. 

The Mumbai store’s architecture draws inspiration from the city’s “kaali peeli” taxi art and other Indian design elements. The handcrafted timber ceiling extending beyond the store’s geometry, with each tile made from 408 wood pieces. The 450,000 individual elements were assembled in New Delhi while the stone walls sourced from Rajasthan, and some design features inspired by the Hawa Mahal. The store in New Delhi reportedly cost Rs 100 crore and was build in just six months. It sources 52 fire-proof panels, which cost Rs 2.5 lakh per metre and each panel 8 metres big. It also has tiles from German firm Cassablanca and tables were imported from a company called Tessa.

With a staff of 100 speaking over 20 languages, including 15+ local Indian dialects, the store boasts a diverse workforce, more than half of whom are women. The facility showcases Apple’s trademark glass walls and a 14-meter-long stainless steel staircase connecting the ground level to a cantilevered mezzanine. Even the Delhi store has 70 employees from more than 15 states in India who can speak more than 15 local languages.

Also read: Apple may launch RealityOS at 2023 developers conference. It will cement Tim Cook’s legacy

Today At Apple

In a bid to make the entire experience more interactive, the stores will host ‘Today At Apple’ sessions — led by real creators, not marketing and sales executives. The one in Mumbai will witness Mumbai Rising from April 18 to 25, featuring creators such as renowned designer Aniruddh Mehta, aka theBigFatMinimalist. These sessions will be key in making these retail outlets stand out. A previous column in ThePrint had detailed how creators from different walks of life will host sessions showcasing the vast capabilities of the phone maker’s hardware.

These sessions, which can host up to 50 people, will tell users how to use the gadgets. Apple will also be hosting these creators and paying them for their services, opening another source of income for them. In Delhi, the sessions will be held in a unique roundtable format, making them even more intimate. Users will be taught how to shoot photographs using an iPhone or make art using the iPad or even produce music on the Mac.

The opening coincides with Apple’s 25th anniversary in India and a period of rapid growth in manufacturing and sales. Apple dominates the Indian premium electronics market and accounts for nearly 50 per cent of the premium smartphone segment. The company also supports over 15,000 developers through its Bengaluru app accelerator.

Also read: Samsung must be on edge on foldable phones. Competition coming thick from Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi

The legacy of Apple stores

The Apple Store was conceived under Ron Johnson, who was hired by Steve Jobs in 2000 after he returned to Apple in 1997. When Jobs returned, Apple was on ventilator support and needed an investment from Microsoft to bail it out from the cusp of bankruptcy.

Johnson, who had been a senior vice president at Target, the American retail giant, led the team that opened in Tysons Corner, Virginia, in 2001. A year later, when the first Apple Store in SoHo, New York City, opened, it became the first outlet with the famed Genius Bars. By 2003, Apple also opened its famous Regent Street store in London.

But it was only in 2006 that the famed glass cube design was created by Apple’s former chief design officer, Sir Jonathan Ive, that debuted with the Fifth Avenue store in New York. It was the store that set the tone for the original iPhone, as it launched exactly a year before the most celebrated product in consumer electronics history. It is also the only Apple Store that remains open 24×7.

In 2009, the magnificent 40,000 sq ft Covent Garden store opened in London, becoming the largest Apple Store at the time. It remains one of the most impressive and largest Apple Store to date.

After Jobs’ death, Johnson also departed from Apple. Following John Browett’s forgettable stint as the head of retail, Tim Cook astutely brought in then Burberry CEO, Angela Ahrendts, who revolutionised the retail and online stores. Her vision and execution led to the creation of the Apple online store and the innovative ‘Today At Apple’ sessions in 2018, transforming the stores into vibrant town squares.

Now, Deirdre O’Brien has been driving this business to unparalleled heights since Ahrendts left in 2019. Under her dynamic leadership, the stunning new stores in Marina Bay and the Dubai Mall have opened.

The Apple Store’s design language is exceptional, with common elements seen across the board. They embrace transparency with an extensive use of glass, evident from the iconic Fifth Avenue Store to the ones in Marina Bay, Singapore, Dubai, and, of course, Mumbai.

The stores also incorporate generous amounts of steel, as seen in the Mumbai unit. Perhaps the most crucial element is that they brilliantly capture the history and zeitgeist of the city they are situated in.

In Paris, the Champs-Élysées store is located in a beautifully restored 19th-century building that masterfully combines the old with the new. A similar pattern is evident in the London stores.

Apple has outdone itself with the Mumbai store, taking inspiration from Mumbai’s vibrant culture and incorporating design elements from across India. The store in Delhi, Apple Saket, reflects the gated city that New Delhi was once known for.

These stores also exude their own localised charm. For example, at the Mumbai store preview, I received a custom tote bag and stickers. They offer exclusive products but also provide superior and more personalised customer support. They also reveal the true potential of Apple Care+, a significant part of Apple’s services business. Apple Saket has its own custom tote bag and swag as well.

Genius Bar appointments can help with everything from setting up a device, recovering an Apple ID, selecting an AppleCare plan, or modifying subscriptions. These Genius Bars made Apple legendary for setting the standard for customer service in the consumer electronics industry across the world, but Apple hasn’t been able to replicate this in India as its devices were sold and serviced by third parties. This changes for customers in Delhi and Mumbai.

The fact that the two stores are at Jio World Drive in Mumbai and Select City Walk in Delhi also highlight how Apple is masterfully maintaining the balancing act between being an aspirational and premium brand while also appealing to the masses. Jio World Drive is home to luxury brands mostly, while City Walk is a mall for the masses. Both important in equal measure.

The ravenous response is a testament to why these stores are so important for Apple. They build on top of the legend of the brand of what has become the most important and celebrated gadget maker of the last 50 years. At the launch of Apple BKC, there were more than 5,000 people turned up at Jio World Drive and one customer also brought the original Macintosh and presented it to Tim Cook. Customers in Delhi stood in lines outside Select Citywalk Mall in the searing 40-degree heat before the 10 am opening on Thursday. There were customers who brought their iMacs, original iPhones and iPads, and some even divebombed and touched Tim Cook’s feet.

If the legend was being built in the last 25 years in India — the legend will truly be cemented in the next 25 years as Apple ramps up local manufacturing and now even has its stores. The one last piece of the Apple services play is now Apple Pay which hopefully will come soon too.

Sahil Mohan Gupta is Founder, warpcore, and Editor, Technology at Acko Drive. Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)