Its not easy to get time with Mr. Anuj Batra. so when you receive a message that he’s free to have a quick chat, you take it. A veteran in the retail space, Mr Batra shares his experiences with IndiaLicensingPost.com.
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- You have worn many different hats throughout your career,with a strong background in retail & infrastructure. What made you join Alcis sports?
- I have been in the retail and distribution profession for nearly 30 years. I have had the privilege of launching some iconic brands in various different sectors like footwear, apparel, garments, accessories, wellness, education and so on. The Indian sports apparel market is still in the nascent stage and I have seen a great amount of opportunity where many international brands were doing very well,however, 90% of brands were not focusing on the target audience that exists in India. By that I mean, there are so many players in India who are only concentrating on the top end of the pyramid whereas the mid and the bottom end has any brands and that is where the entire customer base in India lies. So we wanted to give the best international quality product at Indian prices to the consumers. With that in my mind, I saw a great opportunity of joining Alcis, which was actually being promoted by one of the largest sports apparel manufacturers out of India. I have had the expertise for making it for some iconic international brands as well as many Indian brands into the sports and leisure segment. So, the expertise was there in terms of manufacturing and curating something very different in terms of quality and I have got the expertise in go-to-market strategies and channel development.
- Do you believe the business of sports licensing is coming/has come of age in India?
- Definitely! The overall Indian consumer, while growing up, always had a fancy for icons that they could relate to. We have grown up hearing stories, watching movies and serials and that is how we have connected to these superheroes. We dream and fantasize to be like them in our day to day life. In India as well, we have been growing among these characters that are more than life-like and these superheroes are being projecting in such a way that we see ourselves in them and vice versa. It becomes an easier platform for people to relate to and this is the reason why most of the organizations relate themselves to a brand, icon, license or character as it becomes easy for them to establish their product within the domestic market.
- What are the key tick marks you must have in place before investing in a licensing program?
- The first and foremost tick mark we should have is on the overall positioning of the brand. It has to synergize with the kind of license or character we are trying associate with for our product range. Another important factor is that the license program has to be along term factor. When a brand is investing huge amount of money to obtain a license, they need to ensure that the top and bottom line of the pyramid are covered. Create a range and build up a brand around the character. The ultimate goal would be to see whether we are able to make money out of it and do justice to the brand we are trying to associate ourselves with. There has to be a two-way synergy where the brand is able to grow along with the character.
- What are your expectations from the licensor/brand owner?
- I would say that the brand ethos should not be compromised with, whether the licensee they have signed up with is able to work out a long term strategy or build the brand around their product. It is very important to report true sales figures. Being forthright and ethical is very crucial for a license and a brand to go hand in hand for a long term vision. Getting royalty payments on time is very important as well for a licensor.
- How do you gauge customer appetite for a brand?
- India is blessed to have so many consumers. The sheer size of the population itself is enough for us to get sizable numbers for any licensed program or a brand to successfully launch a property in India and become successful.
- Give us an example of a great licensed brand fit with your product?
- Essentially, Alcis is all about sports apparels and we make a very diverse and unique range of sports products. We have a separate range for running, training, yoga, work-out, cricket and football. There is a huge amount of possibility for us to relate with any of the icons within this entire spectrum of categories that we are manufacturing for and to be able to bring around a brand which can fit into our brand activities. And this is why we had signed up with the iconic Shikhar Dhawan as our brand ambassador who was truly echoing the brand promise that we were trying to portray and position ourselves with. In the women’s category, we have Lauren Gottlieb who is considered to be one of the iconic figures for a lot of young women who aspire to be like her.
- You are the official licensee partner for FIFA World Cup 2018. What are some of the initiatives you are undertaking to excite fans in the run up to the event?
- We were licensees for the Under-17 FIFA World Cup that happened in India and we took some beautiful initiatives of promoting the 10 million program. We also took the initiative of setting up stalls at various stadiums, discussed with other sponsors of FIFA World Cup in India like Bank of Baroda, Coca Cola, Hyundai, Hero, etc to get a sense of getting consumer feedback in terms of people trying our various products, appreciating the quality and technological advances that we are offering in our product range. For the FIFA World Cup 2018, our products will be available at Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, Central, and Sports Station along with some multi-brand outlets across the country. We have also opened up 7 exclusive stores for Alcis where the FIFA range will be merchandised. Before the World Cup begins, we will start additional 3 stores mainly in Goa which predominantly has a strong football fan base along with Hyderabad and Bangalore. We are also going to take initiatives at Lulu Mall in Kochi which again is a city of football fans. We are trying to tie up with sponsors across other countries to promote our products and range and get ourselves associated with football academies. We are offering 555 different SKU’s in the entire FIFA range which includes both men and women. For the first time, we are launching merchandise for women/girls and kids. We have also tied up exclusively with Flipkart to launch this entire range nationwide for the online channel.
- Any key learnings you would like to share regarding your journey as a licensee of some of the biggest and well known brands in the market?
- I would say we need to be reciprocal whether it is a brand or a licensee. There should not be different licenses given in a particular market for different categories but within the same range. At the same time, it is very important for the licensee to be able to honor the commitment and to be able to give justice to the brand. Before signing up the license program, it is very important to work on a business plan and share it.
- You have launched on your campaign “Be The Game” featuring Shikhar Dhawan – pls tell us a little more about the background and its objective.
- Each one of us, irrespective of age, still love sports like football and cricket. We also try and discover our younger years where we participated in school or college sports teams. Some of us still continue this hobby in spite of our office schedules in order to stay fit. So it is all about being the game where we are trying to help people to talk about how we can live in our present age and still be active like a sportsman. The entire Alcis range are technologically advanced products which help people to perform better in what they are trying to do. We are shortly building up that story and you should hear about our big plans very soon.
- What advice would you give to young professionals starting out in the licensing business?
- Being a jury member for WSE (World Startup Expo, Bangalore) and Narsee Monjee, I can surely advise that licensing and sports management is a great opportunity in India. Licensing is going to become more prominent in India with its spectrum not restricting to only FMCG or apparels and it will be a great career to be in. It definitely has a great amount of scope and one should encourage their kids to be able to take up this program and also take this as a full-time career.
- Tell us more about why you did you see it fit to push into the retail sales. Is it primarily for the touch-and-feel experience vis-à-vis shopping on an online portal?
- Our entire positioning goes around the factor that the product needs to be seen and how will the consumer be aware without the touch and feel about gauging the quality and seeing the technology in front of them. So it is very important for us to create a great amount of physical presence. So far, the entire range of our sports apparel is available through more than 264 large format retail outlets and across 700 retail points which are the multi-brand retail outlets being serviced through our chain of distributors. We are also having presence in 7 of our exclusive stores and in the process of opening another 15 stores this year. The one-to-one interaction with our products is very important for us to promote our products. For example, they need to know how it feels to wear our lightweight product of 76gms or the Wonder Tee product which is made out of recycled polyester. Our market strategy is going to be a crucial factor as we plan to have our presence in more than 2000 retail outlets across India this year. We have also tied up with Walmart to sell across various retail points which would have been difficult for us to reach through our present distribution network.
- What is your take on piracy? In more mature markets in the West, they do have laws to tackle such issues but in India we lack such stringent laws. How do you view piracy and what steps do you think the licensors and licensees should take to secure their future in the market?:
- With the IPL tournament happening, one might have seen the players wearing a very discerning product range. Our parent brand, Paragon Sports Apparels, is very fortunate to manufacture it for various different brands for the last 11 years of IPL mainly Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bengaluru. During the matches, you may have noticed thousands of fans wearing similar looking products most of them which are not manufactured under licensed programs of the IPL franchises. The government has to take some steps in order to strengthen the trademark and reinvent laws to take a quick action on piracy. The licensor and licensee need to join hands in order to curb this issue and try to raise the issue at various forums and with the government. The online channel players or retailers should not be allowed to sell dubious products which are not licensed. Once we have stringent laws across this spectrum, this problem can be taken care of. Also, as a customer, one should pledge not to buy a dubious product.
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