In what is being described as its boldest step for expansion outside of its home country, U.S.-based electronic cigarette company Juul Labs Inc hopes to enter the Indian market by the end of 2019, reported Reuters.
The company has already started recruitment in India for that purposes with the hiring of Uber India executive Rachit Ranjan as a senior public policy strategist earlier and appointing as head of government relations the India-based Mastercard executive Rohan Mishra.
The Reuters report stated that the company plans to initially recruit at least three more people in India for in senior executive positions which would also include a general manager for its India operations according to job postings on LinkedIn. According to one posting, the company is also looking at setting up “a new India subsidiary”.
“It (the plan) is currently at an exploratory stage, but the company needs people on the ground in India,” said the report quoting a source with knowledge of the matter.
Flavors such as mango and crème are offer3ed by the USB flash drive looking sleek vaping devices from Juul. The two flavours mentioned above have been smash hits in the United States but have been under regulatory pressure because of repeated reports of addition among teenagers.
A liquid containing nicotine is vaporized in the Juul devices just like most electronic cigarettes. This gives the smokers the addictive rush.
According to advocates of such smoking devices, since smokers do not inhale the dangerous fumes directly into the lungs as happens with smoking of cigarette, therefore these devices are a far less threat to the health of a user. But those opposing the devices argue that there is still presence of addictive chemicals and for the young, it can be a gateway to cigarette smoking.
Indian market entry is a part of a broader strategy of the company to enter the Asian market. There are about 106 million adult smokers in India which is second only to China in the world and therefore the Indian market is a very lucrative one for companies such as Juul and Philip Morris International Inc.
However the highly restrictive regulatory environment for tobacco and electronic cigarettes in India is a challenge for the company. Last year, the states of the country were advised by the union health ministry to end import and sale of e-cigarettes, arguing that such products posed a “great health risk”. E-cigarettes have been banned in 8 of the 29 states in India.
According to Reuters report, currently the federal and state regulations which could prevent its entry plans are being studied by Juul. In order to increase acceptance for the devices, the company is planning to engage with the medical community.
The company has said in a statement that it is considering and evaluating India among the Asian markets but no definitive plans had been drawn up, said the report.
“As we explore potential markets, we are engaging with health regulators, policymakers and other key stakeholders,” the company said.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)