Research In Motion (RIM) has announced plans to double the sales presence of its BlackBerry smartphones in India, as it looks to gain greater share of the country’s

According to a report from India’s Economic Times, RIM will increase its presence in the country to cover 160 different cities this year, that’s double the current number that it reaches through its availability in some 4,000 retail outlets nationwide.

This year, RIM is set to introduce a number of devices running its new BlackBerry 10 operating system, as new CEO Thorsten Heins forges on with his plans to keep the company among the world’s top three smartphone makers.

More than 15 million smartphones were sold in India during November alone as smartphone shipments to the country hit a record high in 2011. However, smartphones accounted for just 6 percent of the 160 million plus units shipped and they remain a growing niche there.

With 3G devices accounting for just 6 percent of 2011′s shipped units, it is clear that India’s mobile market has much potential for growth among its 1.2 billion population. India’s overall mobile market is close to saturation point, with mobile penetration growth lessening as more and more people own devices. The next step is likely to see an increase in mobile phone moving to upgrade their experience with a feature phone or smartphone.

Samsung has invested significantly in India and the Korea firm recently overtook rival Nokia at the top of the country’s smartphone market. The change of order had been strongly predicted, in spite of Nokia’s new Windows Phone 7 devices, but RIM will be hoping that it can rival the duo and build its presence in the market.

RIM has had a number of run-ins in India which have affected its efforts there. Last year it suffered significant service disruptions in a number of markets, including India, while it has lost key executives in India and been dogged by the government’s requests for a local server.

BlackBerry smartphones currently boast a strong foothold in Southeast Asia, however growing competition in the space may see its lead eroded in key markets this year.