Apple is aiming to set up retail outlets in India, the third largest smartphone market in the world but one where the Cupertino-based firm has a tiny market share.

Smartphone shipments in the country increased 21 per cent in Q3 to 28.3 million units year-on-year, but Apple wasn’t even in the top five, which had three local makers – Micromax, Intex and Lava, according to IDC.

The country is forecast to overtake the US to become the world’s second largest smartphone market next year, according to Strategy Analytics.

Apple, which currently sells its devices through third-party resellers, filed an application with the country’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Reuters reported.

Apple has about 450 stores in 18 countries. It had 27 stores in China last year and planned to have 40 by the end of this year.

Its expansion into India has been slowed by rules that require single-brand foreign retailers to buy nearly a third of the goods sold at their stores from local producers. Apple held talks with government officials about relaxing the 30 per cent local-sourcing rule before filing the application, Reuters reported.

Under the country’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, the government has been taking steps to attract foreign investment, including easing investment rules in 15 sectors last November.