Google may open offline stores in India next year

CNET  CBS Interactive

India is undoubtedly one of the hottest markets for smartphones, and Google is still way behind rivals such as Apple and Samsung when it comes to selling smartphones in the country.

According to The Economic Times, these traditional stores are now being evaluated, with the locations possibly being branded as "experience centres". Google is encouraged to open retail stores in India as the brand has received some positive response when they opened a dozen of pop-up stores across different malls in the country.

The company's brick-and-mortar stores in India are likely to open in mid-to-late 2018, so it won't be long before Google makes an official announcement.

These pop-up stores helped Google to understand that physical stores are important to explain things clearly that is not possible via online videos and advertisements.

Sources speaking to Economic Times said the retail stores could carry other Google products as well, including Google Home, Chromecast, Pixel laptops, and Daydream View. Another source revealed that Google had already roped in a senior Apple executive as part of its plan.

Spice had said it planned to open 50 AndroidLand outlets in 18 months but the venture folded up with the two stores in Select Citywalk in Delhi and The Great India Place Mall in Noida shuttered due to poor sales. This will be Google's second stab at physical outlets in the country.

For those of you who didn't know, Google had, in fact, tried its luck at opening retail stores in India back in 2013. They launched with 1,000 offline stores, but it looks like Google will have to do a lot more to ensure steady sales of its flagship smartphones in the face of intense competition. "We had done two stores as part of the pilot and then we could not proceed with the project as they did not meet with our desired objectives", said Chief Executive of Spice Connect, Dilip Modi.

It's still unclear whether Google will own and operate the stores itself, or whether it'll go the franchise route instead. Unlike Apple, which has filed for a single-brand retailing license in India, Google could decide to open its stores and have them operated by franchisees like Samsung and Xiaomi have done with its stores inside India.