Uber signs Virat Kohli as India brand ambassador
Uber has signed on celebrity cricketer Virat Kohli as its brand ambassador in India, the first time it has appointed one in Asia Pacific. Without revealing financial details, the company said the association will "lay the foundation for a host of brand-led interventions in 2018." Uber has pumped millions of dollars in its India operations as it battles Bengaluru-based Ola for market leadership.
Valued at $144mn (Rs. 938.8cr) by global valuation advisory Duff & Phelps, Kohli is one of India's most expensive celebrities. He has 23.5mn followers on Twitter. His announcement on the Uber partnership was liked over 7,000 times and retweeted 850 times in just five hours, a show of his immense popularity. Last year, he beat Lionel Messi in Forbes' 'most valuable players' list.
"Virat personifies dynamism, integrity, grit, ability and passion. He is the embodiment of India's ambitions on the world's stage; he anchors the aspirations of billions, and it's the little things he does that bring joy to their lives," said Sanjay Gupta, Uber India marketing head.
Both Uber and Ola are backed by Japan's SoftBank. While Uber operates in 31 Indian cities, Ola is available in over 100. SoftBank wants Uber to focus on US-Europe, but Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has committed to investing in the region. However, Grab, the leading cab-hailing app in Southeast Asia (also backed by SoftBank), has almost closed a deal to acquire Uber's regional business.
In India, Uber and Ola are in talks for a merger, Bloomberg reports. But a move like that could be opposed by regulators, considering there are no other competitors in the market. The company has refused to comment on deals with either Ola or Grab.