Pointing to the rapid expansion of the Indian golf market, Callaway has opened a subsidiary in the country and signed an endorsement deal with Jeev Milkha Singh, the highest-ranked Indian golfer. The American company is responding to the growing number of courses and players in India, encouraged by the rise of Indian players in the professional rankings and the emergence of an Indian middle class.
Callaway’s Indian business will be headed by Vivek Mehta, senior director at Callaway, and it will start delivering products from the second half of next month. The company will be based in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi, with a team of 15 people to start with. International sales make up more than half of Callaway’s turnover, but the Indian investment comes at a time when Callaway is under pressure in the more mature markets of the U.S. and Western Europe.
In an interview quoted by Golf Business News, George Fellows, the chief executive of Callaway, said that there were an estimated 500,000 golfers in India, including about 150,000 golfers who played more than one round per month. He added that the numbers are growing at about 30 percent per year, so that India could quickly generate hundreds of millions of dollars in golf equipment sales. The company estimates that there are about 200 points of sale for golf products in India, from pro shops to off-course golf and sporting goods stores.
Golf has been played in India for nearly two centuries, with the Royal Calcutta Golf Club opening in 1829, but the number of courses has grown rapidly from 80 to 250 in the last five years. Callaway expects that this fast growth will continue in the next years, as the Indian golfing community no longer consists only of senior government officials and business executives.
Singh, who has been playing with Callaway for several years, was appointed as the brand’s ambassador in India. He is ranked 50th in the world and was the first Indian player to join the European Tour.