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Reliance Retail has clinched an exclusive marketing and distribution deal with Apple Inc—the $19.3-billion iconic maker of iPods and Mac computers—for standalone outlets. This is Reliance Retail’s first exclusive alliance with an international brand. The first store, to be called iStore by Reliance Digital, will come up by October-end in Bangalore.

This is the first time that Apple is partnering a big corporate house for distribution anywhere in the world. The iStores would be standalone showrooms selling Apple products ranging from Macintosh computers to iPods and later, after its India launch, its latest cult offering—iPhone.

The Bangalore store, which is to open just ahead of Diwali, will be spread over 2,000 sq ft. It is currently under construction. Globally, Apple stores are not mere retail stores, they also feature a theatre for presentations and workshops, a studio for training with Apple products, and a Genius Bar for technical support and repair. These outlets also offer free workshops to the public.

Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Retail plans to open 10 iStores by the year-end. Apple would invest in market development, said sources.

Confirming the deal, a company executive said the partnership will benefit both parties. While the deal would give Apple immediate presence and scale, it offers Reliance Digital mileage as the “stores would be co-branded”. Reliance Digital, the consumer electronics chain of the retail venture, has so far only one store, which opened earlier this year in the NCR.

Apple currently has a few resellers in India but no company-owned store. It sells products worldwide through its online stores, retail shops, direct sales force and third-party wholesalers, resellers and value-added resellers.

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