In a tete-tete with Avinder Batra, Zahir Laliwala, CEO, SPORTXS talks about his company that is a sports gear retail destination with an innovative and unique concept and shares the future plans.
Avinder Batra (AB): Tell us about SPORTXS in detail?
Zahir Laliwala (ZL): ‘SPORTXS’ is a brand launched by XSIS PROMOTIONS INDIA PVT LIMITED and founded by us. It is a sports gear retail destination with an innovative and unique concept. As India’s first “Organized Sports Gear Retailing Destination”, the primary objective is to promote Sports as a Culture and highlight the significance of quality gear for any sporting requirement.
Building on the concept of next generation Sports gear retailing in India, SPORTXS presents people with the option of making an informed decision and provides a window of knowledge on products beyond familiarity with the Educate Panels that have been installed in the stores. A Multi-brand, Multi-category concept, SPORTXS boasts of over 6000 varieties of Stock Keeping Units (SKU’s) across 32 Sports categories and 60 sports brands Addressing a wide audience, this high energy environment showcases a unique product range to include Cycles, Cycling Accessories, Protective Gear, Fitness and Yoga apparels and accessories, Camping Gear , Adventure Sports , Skating, Table Tennis, Tennis, Swimming, Archery, Badminton, Hiking, Fishing, Golf, Basketball, Hockey, Boxing, PC games, Board games , Cricket , Apparels and Shoes of all leading Brands to name a few.
AB: What made you bring multi-brand and multi-category under one roof in Indian context?
ZL: For the longest time, the sports gear retail business has been handled through distribution channels and multi-dealer networks. It has been a system dominated by discounts with aggressive price competition being the key sales factor instead of the needs of the consumer or the right product and technology. It is important to ensure that people have access to the right gear especially when a person plays sports at a performance level. Gear is the most important part of the process - if the wrong kind of equipment is used, for example a tennis racquet that is too heavy, chances are it would hamper the training process and possibly even cause injury. We thought it best to give people the opportunity to access the latest technology across various brands in a modern retail format which also provides customers the information and education on equipment being considered for purchase.
AB:What is the response to your first store opened in Ahmedabad? What is your target audience?
ZL:Response in Ahmedabad has been excellent so far with a growth of almost 30% month on month. With the abundance of sports clubs and other such facilities in the city, it is definitely a key market for us. The target audience is not a restricted group and would comprise of people from different age-groups or genders. We see SPORTXS as a lifestyle store for those interested in healthy living, sports and adventure. With products catering to Yoga enthusiasts as well, one would find that the store proves to be a one-stop-shopping destination for the health of mind, body and soul.
AB:What are your investment plans? What are the other locations where you are planning to open other retails?
ZL: We will be investing 10Cr during the next fiscal and as part of our growth and to be a national player in the sporting category, we intend to open 75 stores in the next 5 years. Our immediate plans involve opening 3 stores in Bangalore by January 2011 and will also be setting up stores in Hyderabad, Kochi, Mysore, Chennai and Mangalore. In the West we will be looking at the Pune and Mumbai markets.
AB: What would be your expansion route? Is it company-owned or franchising route?
ZL: As of now, all stores will be company owned ,however in the future we may consider a franchising route provided we get the right partner.
AB: What kind of training or preparations you are providing to the personnel in operating such stores?
ZL: In addition to the training and orientation of the company, we also provide them with knowledge on sport, sport categories and equipment available at the store. Representatives from various brands also interact with the team on a regular basis to educate them on technology adopted in the gear so they have all the required technical information on the products available. With Educate panels, customers can access information themselves and the staff is well trained to give them the required guidance to use the panels.
AB: Are there other exclusive services introduced for the customers by SPORTXS?
ZL: Sport enthusiasts can enjoy extended services such as a Reward card and added benefits of servicing sport equipment such as cycle servicing, repairs and stringing of racquets across SPORTXS outlets. Customers can also take advantage of SPORTXS vouchers for gifting purposes which are available in the denominations of Rs.250, Rs.500 and Rs.1000.