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Ravdeep Singh

CEO | 11 Oct 2010

We are more ‘sitting at home’ people than ‘actively pursuing a sport’ type. We are a community that likes to watch sport, rather than play it. However, market associated with whatever can be used as a ‘lifestyle’ product is large.

Ravdeep has over 20 years of experience in retail and services industry. A thorough leader with close eye on industry and trends, he is well versed with global developments in retail and especially sports and lifestyle. Ravdeep has made significant contributions to various brands and in turning around organisations. In his stint with leading global brands like Tag Hauer, Reebok, Adidas, Rockport, Nautica, CAT, Zara etc, he has developed a sense of the best practices with global standards in him.

Planet Sports, Sports division of Pantaloon Retail India Limited, is the country’s leading multi-brand sports lifestyle retail chain with over 77 specialty stores, spread across 30 cities. Planet Sports has one of the largest collection of international sports & lifestyle brands such as Converse, Speedo, Wilson, Prince, Skechers, Salomon, Reebok, Nike, Adidas, Puma and Spalding to name a few.

Q. Planet sports came into being in 2003. How has the journey been so far and what has changed since then in the Indian sports apparel and equipment industry?

We acquired the controlling stake of this company in March 2007 and in June we started taking control of the management and operations. We started official operations by the end of 2008. We first became an independent organisation and then in April 2010 we merged the business with Pantaloons Retail India Ltd. As India keeps growing younger, the sports business will continues to grow. We do not know if anyone can put a number, on the size or potential of the market. The potential for sports equipment is not large, purely because of the nature of Indians. We are more ‘sitting at home’ people than ‘actively pursuing a sport’ type. We are a community that likes to watch sport, rather than play it. However, market associated with whatever can be used as a ‘lifestyle’ product is large. To cite an example the global trend in footwear nowadays is low profile shoes, but in India the trend is still the running profile. Therefore, when sports shoes brands come to India they are amazed at how we use performance products. The largest selling models for Adidas and Reebok are not performance shoes.

Q. Planet Sports is a one-stop-shop for a lot of products. What are the brands Planet Sports is associated with? Are there any exclusive brands available only at Planet Sports?

The construct of Planet Sports is that it is a specialty sports and a multi brand retail outlet. So we are across multi-brands and we are across multi-sports. In India, because of the low penetration of this business, more and more companies have fashioned themselves to be more lifestyle driven and less performance driven. Currently, we cater to sports brands that are available in the country. We are the top three partners for all the brands in the country. We will be amongst the top two partners for Puma, Nike, Adidas, Reebok. We also partner with Lotto and Fila; these are all the sports brands that are available. We also ventured into arrangements with some of the other sports brands that have a global presence and have an interest in India. We have an exclusive arrangement that we will be the face of the brand in India. These brands are Wilson, Prince, Speedo, Wilson Golf, Spalding, Airwalk and Converse. We looked at numerous sports and since we are a sports specialty retail outlet, we determined which sport will sell in this market rather than a brand. For example, for an Indian who is a swimmer we have a product line that suits a swimmer. Since we are an Indian face for some brands in the country we also supply to other retailers, as we are their exclusive partners. We are the licensees for Speedo in India and for other brands too. Similarly we have Spalding for basketball.

Q. Please name a few consumer trends in this industry.

The most happening trend that I have seen over the last 24 months is that the young consumers are not at all like the consumers of the previous generations. You will find that a lot of consumers today, are willing to step out of their homes in flip-flops and slippers. Secondly, the consumer today is extremely fashion conscious. Therefore, the big trend we see is that big brands circa 60’s like Converse, is back with a bang. One should always look at a trend as an opportunity.

Q. Who are your direct competitors and what is the brand’s USP as compared to them? What is your brand positioning compared to them.

Unfortunately, India does not have another multi brand sports retailer. Therefore, there is no competition per se. I would say that our competition is the size of the market and the opportunity. It is what we have not been able to achieve yet.

Q. Planet Sports is targeted at niche spenders while most Indians still prefer less expensive sports brands. How do you plan to push into these markets?

I do not think that is true. If you look at the average Indian consumer who is willing to purchase anything in sports, we have products for them. We may not have the width in terms of number of stores. However, if you are a consumer in any city then we have a product for you. We realise that all of India will not shop at Planet Sports. We produce products that are meant for a larger mass than the one coming into a Planet Sports store. Like I mentioned earlier, we have a licensing business too. We have a retail concept called the Sports Warehouse which is a value store for the brand business. We have grown to a size where we can ask the brands if they can come up with a special line for the value stores. Looking at the larger business, we have now introduced an extremely large line of brands that are owned or licensed by the Future Group. It will have products at consumer affordable prices available in all Big Bazaar stores. Converse, Nike, Reebok and a couple of other brands will spearhead our foray into the value business.

Q. What are the marketing initiatives that Planet Sports have undertaken in India. Please explain a few of your marketing campaigns.

For a retailer the largest marketing campaign it undertakes is announcement of the start of the season business or end of season sale. Therefore, we spend a large amount of money in these two announcements, which contribute to close to 60 per cent of our total advertising spends. However, we also do a lot of BTL where the remaining 40 per cent of our spends go. We sponsor a lot of things for our brands. For example, for Wilson we have tied up with MBTT, Mahesh Bhupati’s tennis academy. Similarly, we have about 150 other coaches that we sponsor. We also sponsor a lot of players in the Indian junior, sub-junior circuit. Our big sponsored players are Wilson sponsored Mahesh Bhupati and Sania Mirza. We do similar things for other brands associated with us as well. Basketball needs a special mention as we have tied up with Spalding and NBA uses their balls. NBA this year is doing a lot of activities in India and we are partnering with them in these events.

Q. At the close of Q1, 2010 how was the revenue generation compared to targets? What are the revenue targets for 2010?

Since we have merged, we are now a part of Pantaloon Retail. We have closed our year on the June 30 at 96 per cent of our business plan. As for the revenue targets for 2010, I cannot give you a number but I can tell you that we are going to grow at 30 per cent at same-store basis and our overall business will grow by about 77 per cent.

Q. Please tell us about your expansion and retail plans.

We are gunning to add 28 stores this year to our business. Next year our expansion will be phenomenal as we are already laying the foundation to open 50 stores. Out of those 50 stores, a large number of stores will be in the tier-II cities. This year’s store target is a mixture of metros and mini-metros.

Q. Is Planet Sports tying up with any new brands?

There is no new brand in the pipeline but about these things one really doesn’t know. India is a market that has become interesting to almost all the brands, therefore, there will be such opportunities. But we are not going after anyone to sign them up. I think with what we have already, we have a very large business case to make. We are focused on the business that is on the table right now.

Q. Please share some light on your advertising budget?

We mostly have used three mediums of advertising till now. In terms of spends the largest goes into print. We spend the most on newspapers, followed by a lot of magazine advertising. We have also started spending money on radio. Lastly, the smallest amount of money goes into outdoor advertising.

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