Live Sports365 E-Retail Pvt. Ltd (www.sports365.in) is India’s first professionally managed sports and Fitness Company. The group runs one of India’s finest e-Commerce stores which offers more than 8000 products from 100 brands, both national and international. Sports365 is your one stop shop for sports equipment online. From badminton racquets, sports shoes and apparel and cycling gear to fitness products like yoga mats and so on Sports365 is your one stop shop for sports equipment online. The institutional business unit offers turn-key solutions in terms of sports infrastructure, apparel and infrastructure to corporates, schools and colleges, sports clubs and academies, residential properties, fitness centers and hotels.
Sports365 is the coming together of management professionals with a passion for sports and accomplished sporting icons. (The leadership team comprises of Sekhar Reddy and Mahesh Bhupathi.) We are also supported by Yuvraj Singh, Dipika Pallikal, Lara Dutta and Pankaj Adavni who play a prominent role. We spoke with Sekhar about this venture and here is an excerpt of our interesting conversation.
First up, sports based e-Commerce is a fairly niche area in India. How did the idea emerge?
The common denominator is our “unrelenting passion for sports”. The idea actually germinated during one of our regular badminton games. Having felt the need for such a company, as customers we realized that it is an attractive business opportunity. What followed was a three month long process of internal discussions and debates, sounding off the ideas with experts and friends and some amount of business planning. The outcome was a unanimous “go ahead” and then we started the boot strapping process.
How has the experience been so far in this very exciting area?
We are about a year old and this has been the most exciting time of our lives.
Our online sports store, www.sports365.in, offers more than 8,000 products covering almost all sporting disciplines. We have managed to secure tie-ups with all leading international and national sports brands. Our website user interface has received very good feedback from the customer and this can be attributed to “Live Chat” feature on the portal, which allows customers to interact with sports experts which aids them in making informed buying decisions. This is also complemented by our comprehensive buying guides for various products.
With 4,000+ active customers, the response has exceeded our expectations. We have a very strong and active community on our social media properties (Face book, Twitter, Blog). The innovative and refreshing promotions that we conduct from time to time have garnered some wonderful feedback from our customers.
On the institutional front, we have worked with close to 100 some marquee names like Intel, Accenture, Amazon, ISB, IIM Bangalore to name a few. We offer comprehensive solution based models to each of our customers. For instance, the School Partnership Program for which we are tied up with Nike and the PACE Premier Academies and Clubs Enablement program. Our offerings to corporates, schools and academies are centered on sports apparel, sports footwear and sports gear that have been very well received.
What do you think are the main challenges facing the segment today and how do you plan to address them?
From our perspective there are primarily three challenges that we face. Firstly, access to good quality sports merchandise outside metro locations is a big challenge. To address this problem we offer shipping to the 6 lakh odd postal codes in the country with options like cash on delivery and free shipping. We also make available 8000 products for a number of sports disciplines across 90 brands. Secondly, customers have limited buying advice and consequently this affects their purchase decisions. By incorporating a “Live Chat” and buying guides for various products we aim to change this scenario.
Lastly, affordability is another challenge customers face today. Due to availability and supply constraints most of the sporting merchandise is still being sold at steep prices. In order to mitigate this problem, we work with our brand partners to source products at better prices and ensure operational efficiencies which consequently get translated into better, more affordable prices.
You have some eminent names like Mahesh Bhupathi, Yuvraj Singh, Dipika Pallikal, Lara Dutta and Pankaj Advani lending support to the company. What is the thought behind this and how challenging was it to get them on-board?
Right from the inception, we wanted www.sports365.in to be a “sports company run by the sports experts for the sports lovers”. To fulfill this objective, it is important for us to have credible sports and fitness personalities lending support to the business.
We wanted the enterprise to be a part of all aspects of business and hence each of these sporting icons have a role in several aspects like sourcing, vendor relations, customer engagement, planning and not merely marketing alone. They are experts who understand sports as well as customer needs as well as anyone can. In terms of tying up with these personalities, we believe that it is our conviction and a genuine vision to promote sports which has made this endeavor possible.
How do you see your company growing over the next 2-3 years?
We believe that the mindset towards sports is changing as our country is witnessing a “sports revolution” and we aim to capitalize on that. To begin with, in the next couple of years we see ourselves as a dominant player in the e-Commerce market. On the B2B front we aim to acquire 1000 institutional partners in the next 24 months. We would also like to create credible business property around customer engagement and bring a range of international products on our website that are suited to the needs of Indian customers.