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Google to open experience centres to boost smartphone sales in India

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Search engine behemoth Google might soon open brick-and-mortar stores in India to boost sales of its smartphones, Pixel, which is considered one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for the devices.

According to sources familiar with the development, the company in its latest strategy to boost smartphone sales in India, plans to open experience centres in 2018. They have also hired a senior Apple executive as part of this plan, ET report said. However, Google didn’t confirm the development.

Google reported to be encouraged by the response to more than a dozen pop-up stores in recent weeks that it opened in malls across India, including High Street Phoenix in Mumbai, and Select Citywalk, Promenade, Mall of India in Delhi-NCR to showcase Pixel 2 phones and educate consumers on its features.

They have reportedly received requests for space to set up Google stores. “They got a flavour of how physical stores are also important because you can’t explain many of the features online,” said a top executive at a mall where the company had a pop-up store for more than a month.

Sources further said, Google will use the stores to sell other products as well. Its hardware includes Google Home smart speakers, Chromecast streaming devices, Pixel laptops and Daydream View virtual reality headsets.

In India, Google is way behind in comparison to many brands. The top brands in the countries are Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo. This will be Google’s second stab at physical outlets in the country. In 2013, Google had in partnership with BK Modi-promoted Spice Group rolled out AndroidLand outlets to sell Android smartphones from brands such as Samsung, Sony, HTC, Lenovo, Xolo, Micromax, and Karbonn, alongside Spice, which also sells its own branded smartphones. Spice had said it planned to open 50 AndroidLand outlets in 18 months.

Google has not clarified whether it will apply for a single-brand retailing licence in India or take the franchisee route like Apple and Samsung. Samsung branded stores are owned and operated by franchisees in India, Xiaomi’s Mi Home physical outlets are owned by franchisees.

Apple is seeking a single-brand licence to open own stores in India and has sought concessions including duty exemption on manufacturing and servicing, components, capital equipment and consumables for 15 years.

Besides, Google is also planning to unveil Android Oreo Go edition in India, first introducing phones with either 512MB or 1GB of RAM. For now, the Go edition of Oreo is available for manufacturers to start using, which should mean it’ll be see it on new devices soon.

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