Google is set to start opening new stores in India with the goal of promoting the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, its latest pair of Android flagships which officially debuted in the South Asian country in mid-November, The Economic Times reported Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the company's plans. The claim is in line with Google's recent comments on the matter as its Hardware Product Management VP Mario Queiroz and Hardware SVP Rick Osterloh both previously said the company is looking to target offline retail channels in India, though such plans have yet to fully materialize even six weeks after the two handsets were already commercialized in the country.
Not all of the newly cited sources are suggesting Google's brick-and-mortar ambitions in India will be targeted at promoting the Pixel 2 devices specifically, with one insider claiming the Alphabet-owned tech giant isn't seeking to open physical retail locations in the country before late 2018. In that scenario, the stores would likely be primarily selling the Pixel 3 flagships and not Google's 2017 offerings. The planned shops themselves are described as "experience centers" reminiscent of Apple and Xiaomi's retail locations, with Google's reported goal being financing outlets where consumers would be able to try out its products without any pressure and interact with its consumer electronics at their own pace. The Internet juggernaut already experimented with such a strategy in recent weeks, albeit on a significantly smaller scale, having opened a number of temporary pop-up stores across the country, mostly in major shopping malls. As such locations are said to have significantly boosted Pixel 2 sales, Google is reportedly preparing a much larger, long-term commitment to India. Besides handsets, the same stores would also be showcasing and selling other Google-made products like the company's Daydream headsets, Home-branded smart speakers, Pixelbook Chromebooks, and Chromecasts, according to the same report.
The actual number of stores Google is planning on opening in India remains unclear, though at least two major shopping malls in the country are said to have already received requests for store space offers from the U.S. company. Malls in cities like New Delhi and Mumbai that previously hosted Google's pop-up stores are the likeliest candidates for its upcoming centers. The logistics side of the equation is an even bigger unknown as sources weren't able to tell whether Google intends to operate its Indian stores like franchises or mimic Apple and apply for a single-brand retailing license which would represent a commitment that's more long-term in nature. While the Pixel flagships can hardly compete with aggressively priced mobile devices in India, the country remains a lucrative proposition for Google and every other phone maker due to its sheer size and the rapid growth it's been experiencing in recent years.