Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, awareness about health and fitness has increased and along with that the demand for fitness wear and sports equipment has risen in the country. Looking at this as an opportunity, and despite Covid restrictions, Puma continued to invest in retail expansion, local supply chain, new products and marketing, says the global sportswear brand’s managing director for India, Abhishek Ganguly. The strategy seems to have paid off. Puma India clocked a revenue of Rs. 2,044 crore in 2021, a 68 percent jump in revenue from 2020. In a conversation with Storyboard18, Ganguly said the company will be focusing on markets beyond metros for its next phase of growth and will also double down on “the experience of retail” going forward. Read on to find out why.
Recently, Puma reported revenue of Rs 2,044 crore in the year gone by, a jump of 68 percent from Rs 1,215 crore in 2020. What was the strategy and approach during this challenging time?
It was definitely a challenging year. But we all see that there is a demand in our category and it’s growing with people focusing more on health and fitness. Any product or category around that is growing and that is a great tailwind that we see. Also, today sportswear is becoming a part of the mainstream, a part of fashion, a part of daily lives. Athleisure, sports-led fashion gear, that is a positive that is happening as well. On our company’s side, we have done a lot of things that we believe have helped us. Firstly, I would say that whatever we had done before Covid gave us returns during the pandemic. Some of these initiatives were adopting digital as our first channel, not just for sales but also from a marketing standpoint, and what we did around our supply chain and our product portfolio. All of this helped. So we didn’t have to suddenly re-align our strategy.
In your view, what is Puma doing differently as compared to other players in the market?
We have always been consumer-focused in building a product portfolio that appeals to the Indian consumer. In our pricing strategy, the perceived value of what the consumer gets when he buys a Puma product should be higher than what he has paid. We have always focused on the young consumer. When it comes to our marketing storylines, our marketing campaign, we focus on local relevance in India. If you look at our investment and our partnerships, it is in the local sporting ecosystem, whether it is with Virat Kohli or KL Rahul, Royal Challengers Bangalore or with Sunil Chettri, Gurpreet Sandhu, ISL Football Teams, Bangalore Football Club, Mumbai City FC. If you look at our investments in boxers including MC Mary Kom, our partnerships with hockey players, we have really invested in India for the Indian sporting ecosystem. Also for entertainment, art, music, movies, we have associated with personalities on that front.
You have celebrity merchandise vertical and celeb collaborations which are actively publicized on social media platforms. What are these efforts and collaborations doing for the brand?
There’s a platform like One8 with Virat Kohli and last year during the pandemic, we launched 1DER with KL Rahul. During the pandemic, we got back to sponsoring an IPL team which is Royal Challengers Bangalore. In all of these cases, we created a range of products that speaks to the fans of each of these sports assets. That extends our own network of consumers and helps us in acquiring these customers and speak their language and appeal to them in a way that they want. If you look at One8 today, that is a Rs. 200 crore brand in itself. The first year of 1DER has been very successful. This helps us in getting local relevance, extending the base of customers by digging into the fan base of these collaborators.
Are you looking at more collaborations and celebrity-led merchandise in the coming days?
We will definitely have more and more athletes and entertainers whom we work with. Merchandise collaboration will be very selective. But we will definitely have newer opportunities. We are conscious of the fact that there are certain product categories or certain consumer types where we are yet to have an India-focused collaboration and there is more to come on that front.
Where will the next phase of growth come from?
We will continue to be more ambitious about India. This means more stores in all the wide spaces that exist today for us. We will be continuously looking at e-commerce as a channel. We will launch new products based on these product categories that we are checking into. And we will have large spends around marketing, having athletes and entertainers associated with us. So whatever we have done so far, we will do more of that.
When and where are these new stores coming up? And how many?
The number of exclusive stores for Puma today is 411, that is the last count. To be honest, we are looking at Tier 2-3 cities. There are new malls coming in Tier 1 cities as well. We are also opening larger stores. For today’s consumer shopping is not just a transaction, it is a part of entertainment where people go in as a family or friends go out together. It is an experience. Hence, we are focusing on the experience of retail when we are opening stores. And definitely opening larger stores.
(Edited by : Ajay Vaishnav)