As part of ongoing attempts to grow their market share in India, Apple is set to announce that it has made Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan its Brand Ambassador in the world’s second most populous country.
The news comes on the back of increased focus by Apple on the huge smartphone market in India. As poor sales in the first quarter of 2016 force action from the technology giant, India has been identified as a market for potential growth, where contrary to the global trend, sales actually skyrocketed by an amazing 56% in the same time period.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, visited India last month with a remit to improve understanding of what is the third biggest marketplace for smartphones. During the trip, Cook announced plans to establish an iOS app accelerator center focusing on design and development in Bengaluru and a map development facility in Hyderabad.
Shah Rukh Khan
Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) is a hugely popular Bollywood star and his endorsement is expected to boost sales further. His appeal extends well beyond just India. There are thought to be over 30 million NRI (Non-Resident Indian’s) and PIO’s (Person of Indian Origin) in the world. This, combined with the growing crossover appeal of Bollywood, means that SRK is seen as the perfect ambassador. Known as the ‘King of Bollywood’ or ‘King Khan’, he has featured in over 80 films, won many awards and also turned his hand to television producing.
Interestingly, Cook also attended a dinner hosted by Shah at his seaside mansion during his Indian visit, where he dined with the great and the good of Indian high society.
It is expected that the official announcement will happen when the iPhone 7 launches in India later this year.
Apple and Indian Law
Apple is in discussions with the Modi government about opening a number of retail stores in the country but has run into legal problems. It is believed that Apple would like to open three new stores by the end of next year. India has legislation that insists that any company looking to open a retail outlet must sell at least 30 percent locally sourced goods.
Helpfully, Foxconn has announced plans to open a new iPhone-manufacturing factory in India, which will obviously help Apple reach the magical 30 percent number, but it is thought it will take over a year before the plant is fully operational.
Apple currently has a few franchise stores in India, and small outlets within larger electronic retailer stores but does not have the iconic flagship stores it likes to establish.
Apple has been in discussions about ways to circumvent this legislation. It is thought that Apple has applied for a waiver, (there are some exemptions for state of the art high tech firms), but this was declined. The talks have been described as ‘amicable’, and there is a chance a resolution could be close.
The latest rumors emanating from India suggest that the government may be prepared to give Apple a two to three year window where they are excused from the 30% rule while they establish themselves in the country, before having to comply with the law, which was introduced to help job creation.
The rumors of this relaxation come on the back of comments made by industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman, when she stated that a review was in progress at a recent press conference.