BlackBerry locks down Indian device agreement as Apple chases deal

BlackBerry has secured a device manufacturing agreement in India while Apple has taken a further step towards a similar agreement.

As the world’s second largest smartphone market, having a presence in India is highly desirable for device manufacturers. Apple has been in talks with India’s government since the end of last year, and now seems poised to begin the manufacture of devices in Bengaluru by the end of April, according to an interview with Karnataka state’s information technology minister Priyank Kharge.

Kharge posted on Twitter saying: “Apple’s intentions to make iPhones in Bengaluru will foster cutting edge technology ecosystem and supply chain development in the state.” Karnataka, of which Bengaluru is the capital, has celebrated Apple’s manufacturing proposal in an official release which was picked up on by a number of press outlets. He noted that if a deal is agreed, Apple will begin manufacturing devices at a plant founded by the firm’s Taiwanese partner, Wistron.

Apple has made no official confirmation of a deal, although CEO Tim Cook stated that India “was a great place to be” with regard to manufacturing, noting that the firm was “in discussions on a number of things, including retail stores, and fully intend to invest significantly in the country.”

However, the firm could face setbacks as it looks to secure tax and sourcing concessions from India’s government, with officials previously stating that they would give Apple no special treatment.

BlackBerry meanwhile has partnered with Optiemus Infracom, and will license device software and brand assets to the firm. Optiemus already distributes BlackBerry’s devices in India, and the firm will now assume responsibilities for designing, manufacturing, selling and marketing products under the BlackBerry brand in India as well as neighbouring Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The agreement with Optiemus is BlackBerry’s third with a device manufacturer, and covers markets that were not included in its previously announced deal with handset firm TCL. At the time of this announcement, BlackBerry confirmed that it was holding “late discussions” for an Indian manufacturing deal. It can now be inferred that these talks were with Optiemus.

BlackBerry’s now has agreements in place that will allow its licensees to manufacture and sell devices carrying the BlackBerry brand in every market globally. This final agreement with Optiemus was described by BlackBerry as “completing our transition to a security software and services company”.

Both deals are broadly beneficial to India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, whose Make in India campaign is aimed at encouraging job creation in the country.

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