India may tap Aamir Khan to boost trade with China

New Delhi: It’s Bollywood to the rescue act in real life. India is considering appointing actor Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador to showcase its services sectors in China by cashing in on the star’s popularity in that country.

The idea is to boost services exports and narrow its trade deficit with China.

India has a $51 billion merchandise trade deficit and about $270 million services trade deficit with China that the Indian government has termed as “unsustainable”.

In the recently concluded 11th joint economic group between the two countries, Chinese trade minister Zhong Shan agreed to draw up a medium- and long-term roadmap with action points and timelines to address the massive trade deficit between the two countries.

“Aamir Khan has won the hearts of millions of common Chinese citizens. He can create tremendous goodwill for India in China. He can be our brand ambassador to China and present our prowess in services sectors,” a commerce ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The official said commerce ministry has made the proposal to the ministry of external affairs. “It is under active consideration,” he added.

Khan became a household name in China with his back-to-back hits like 3 Idiots (box office collection of Rs16 crore in China), PK (Rs123 crore), Dangal (Rs1,200 crore), and Secret Superstar (Rs800 crore) that opened up the underexplored Chinese movie market for other Indian filmmakers. Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which opened recently in China has also so far garnered Rs278 crore. The sky-high collections by Indian movies in China show the similar cultural sensibilities in the two Asian neighbours apart from the fact that there are large numbers of cinema screens available (40,000) in China and the average ticket prices ($12) are much higher than in India.

“China has huge potential as a market for Indian films. If you look at the Rs275 crore-plus Bajrangi Bhaijaan has just earned there, nearly two years after its domestic theatrical release, you will realise that going forward, China can emerge as the single-biggest overseas market for Bollywood,” said film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar.

However, China remains a challenging market for Indian film producers. The Chinese government works with a strict quota system restricting the number of non-Chinese film releases to 40-50 a year. Most Indian film producers tie up with local Chinese distributors who are well-versed with the exhibition market. Under the commercial arrangement, 50% of the final revenue goes to exhibitors while the rest is divided equally between the Chinese distributor and Indian producer.livemint