NEWS - Monday, December 11, 2006

Bank In India Offers To Finance Xbox 360 Purchases

India is fast becoming a key source of labor for American tech companies, but with average annual income in the country less than the price of a personal computer, the hi-tech products manufactured by multinationals that have set up shop there remain out of reach for most of the nation. That reality became more apparent when a major Indian bank last week launched the kind of financing program that in America is ordinarily used for automobile or major appliance purchases. In this case, however, it’s for Indians wanting to buy Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game system. India’s ICICI bank says it will secure an Xbox 360 Core system for customers for an upfront payment of the rupee equivalent of about $20.00 and six monthly installments of about $73.00. The Xbox 360 Core system ordinarily sells in India for about $518.00. ICICI officials say this type of program is needed to give everyday Indians access to the products produced by the multinationals that have outsourced much of their production to the country’s low wage workers. "Bridging the gap between affordability and desirability calls for a need to use innovative methods to reach out to the masses across the country," said Sachin Khandelwal, general manager for ICICI’s Cards Product Group, in a statement. He may be overly optimistic about the program. With average annual income at less than $500 in India, the purchase of an Xbox 360 would for the typical resident represent a financial outlay that in the West would be the equivalent of buying a house. It’s not likely that too many Indians are going to shell out a year’s salary just to play Yuvraj Singh International Cricket 2007, a title produced for the local market by Codemasters, even on the installment plan. Still, the wages paid by Microsoft and other U.S. tech firms operating in India far exceed the national average, even if they’re modest by American standards. A programmer working at a Microsoft office in Bangalore is likely making close to $10,000 annually or more. So the company should have little trouble identifying its target customers in the country -- they’re likely on its payroll, or that of a competitor.


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