We've found the right balance between online & offline, says PUMA India MD

Topics Puma India | Puma shoes | Puma

Abhishek Ganguly, Managing director PUMA India
Some of your competitors are reducing the number of retail stores whereas you have come up with an experiential centre for buyers. How does PUMA see the future of offline retail growth?

We are a multichannel brand and we let the consumer decide where she wants to shop with us and engage with us and interact with us. We don’t want to create barriers based on what we think is right. Instead, we want to open up all channels of distribution. Even within offline retail, different channels will have their own proposition — a multi-brand store has its own attraction, an exclusive store its own. We want to make every proposition strong for our consumers to have a convenient shopping experience.

But where do you see the real growth coming from?

I will be honest with you, this year our growth in offline has been stronger than online (this is before the festival sales by e-commerce giants). We have grown 30 per cent in like-to-like sales compared to last year and online is a bit less than that. I firmly believe in co-existence and we are proving that. The proof of the pudding is in eating. Even in 2012-13, the early days of e-commerce, we were among the first brands to get into it and we have now been able to find the right balance between the two sides and we as a brand would not like to grow one at the cost of the other.

Your new interactive retail store in Bengaluru is being seen as a move to draw more buyers to the physical store. Is there a shift?

E-commerce has this proposition that you can shop anytime, can get delivery anywhere but for offline the biggest proposition is experience — when you come in, how do you feel, how do you get treated, what kind of touch-and-feel you get, what kind of engagement you have with the brand and the product and that is where experiential retail comes into the picture. There, in five minutes, you can get anything printed on a product that you buy, your name, number, initials and all this is to provide a more personal and customised experience to the buyer. So the consumer can also participate in the creation of the product.

“Athleisure” as a category is a big draw in urban India and many employers are encouraging and institutionalising such activities for employees. Does that open up business-to-business tie up opportunities?

I think the trend is bigger than that. If you look at India, today people are wearing sportswear and athletic leisure apparels/accessories during travel, going to the offices, going for a movie or on the road. More people are playing sports than ever before, sports other than cricket are catching on, more women are drawn towards fitness activities. Both sports and athleisure are seeing big upswing in India.

But the category has also led to many mid-range brands springing up? How big a challenge is that for you?

If consumption increases, there are bound to be more players. I don’t think they are directly impacting us. It’s more about creating an ecosystem and their emergence is good for the category. I, for one, am not afraid and believe that it helps in promoting sports and fitness routines that promote brands in turn.

You mentioned earlier that non-cricketing sports are growing in India. Which are the areas you are betting big on?

One of them is running, it is a big sports today in India, there are more and more runners; the number of women runners is growing faster than the men, kids are doing middle distance. We are focusing on that globally as well. We have traditionally been big on it and we have now tied up with Dutee Chand who is an inspiration. From the product standpoint, we are bringing in technologies — we recently launched something which is extremely good for running. Football is picking up. In Tier 1 city schools, children are playing more football than cricket. We have had tie ups with Bengaluru FC and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. We are signing some more big names from the Indian football scene. People are going to gyms, we see a lot of growth coming in basketball as well.

You have dabbled in infant fashion that is at a nascent stage in India. How has it evolved globally and what are the prospects domestically?

It’s a big area for us. Business goals are there but we realised that parents today have a lot of aspirations and they themselves are getting fitter and endorsing a more active lifestyle. They also like their kids to adopt something at a very early stage, even as an infant. It works very well for us because it propagates fitness at a very young age.

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