Google could be interested in opening retail stores in India.

The first-gen Pixel flew under the radar in India thanks to an underwhelming marketing campaign by Google, and the company vowed to fix things with its successor. For the Pixel 2, Google started aggressively advertising the device — both via billboards and by launching pop-up stores in major cities across India. And it now looks like the search giant wants to take things to the next level in 2018. According to a new report by Economic Times, Google is planning to set up retail stores in India next year to drive sales of Pixel phones.

Google retail store India

Citing three people familiar with the matter, ET says that Google is looking to set up "experience centres" in the country, with the company said to have hired a senior Apple exec to get things going. Google is said to have been encouraged to go the offline route following positive feedback from its pop-up stores, where it set up a dark room to showcase the Pixel's low-light shooting capabilities.

Google's retail push is also aimed at highlighting its nascent hardware ecosystem, including the Daydream View headset, the Chromecast, and even the Google Home, which could launch in India sometime next year. Google doesn't quite enjoy the same brand cachet as Samsung or Xiaomi, and launching retail stores could be useful in increasing awareness of the brand's hardware products.

Retail stores are the ideal platform for increasing awareness of Google's hardware ecosystem.

Even though e-commerce sites have seen a meteoric rise in recent years, the offline sector is still dominant in India. The dominance of OPPO and Vivo can be explained by their robust offline distribution network, with both brands catering to customers in tier two and tier three cities. That's the same strategy Xiaomi followed earlier this year, and the brand is now seeing over 25% of sales from the offline market.

The reason for the offline sector's continuing dominance could be as simple as customers wanting to get a feel for the device and trying out the features on offer before making a purchase.

At this point, it's unclear if Google will be applying for a single-brand license or go the franchisee route. Getting a single-brand license gives Google more control over the design of its stores, but the process itself is a lengthy affair — Apple has been trying for over a year to acquire a license.