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India’s Sporting Culture Must Grow In Tandem With Economic Development: PUMA India & SEA MD

PUMA India and SEA MD Abhishek Ganguly says that sporting culture development and economic development have historically coincided globally for many countries

Photo Credit : BW Businessworld


The German athletic brand PUMA outdid all of its contemporaries in FY22, registering Rs 2,980 crore in revenue in India which was 46 per cent higher than the Rs 2,044 crore in FY21. Meanwhile, its competitors such as Adidas, Nike and Reebok posted revenues of 1551 crore, Rs 814 crore and Rs 417 crore, respectively, in FY22 and Rs 945 crore, Rs 564 crore, and Rs 320 crore in FY21 – indicating the clear stature of PUMA as the leader in the sports brand category.

PUMA’s footwear category contributed 60 per cent of the company’s total sales income in FY22 while apparel accounted for 35 per cent and accessories for 5 per cent. The company has also been branching out more to non-metropolitan cities in an effort to reach deeper into the nooks and corners of India (the share of its business from non-metropolitan cities rose 5 per cent between 2019 and 2022, despite the pandemic).

The German brand recorded a 145.3 per cent growth since the onset of the pandemic in the last two years.

Despite this, PUMA has huge plans for marketing in the upcoming fiscal year and recently roped-in top stars from India’s sporting fraternity including Virat Kohli, Sunil Chhetri, MC Mary Kom and Harmanpreet Kaur. Two of them – Virat Kohli and Sunil Chhetri – headlined the promotional event around the company’s latest campaign ‘Let There Be Sport’ in Bengaluru on Friday.

The campaign from PUMA aims to develop an ecosystem at the grassroots level that prioritises fitness and motivates people to take up sports and physical activities.

In a recent PUMA-Nielsen report, it was revealed that just 20 per cent of adults in urban India meet the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended index of a minimum of 150-300 minutes of physical exercise per week. Meanwhile, children spend about 86 minutes of the WHO-recommended 420 minutes or more on an average per week in India. Interestingly, this is lesser than that of adults who invest 101 minutes of fitness activity per week.

Region-wise, children in the East region spend the most time pursuing sport and fitness (125 minutes per week), while the West region had the lowest average (68 minutes).

The report also found that there was a direct correlation between children with high sports participation and improved academic performance. In response to this observation in the report, star footballer and Indian Football Team Captain Sunil Chhetri joked that he has been saying the same for 15 years during the event.

“It's science, because you get to think fast in sports and you get into a habit of thinking fast. It’s unlike what people think – ‘sports is just about the body’. In fact, the body just follows,” he said. “Anyone can be physically fit. It's easy – don't eat too much, work hard and you will be fine. But being smart in a split second, during a match or a game – makes one a sportsperson. People who are good at sports, are always very smart.”

(R-L): Indian Football Team Captain Sunil Chhetri with Abhishek Ganguly (Managing Director at PUMA India & South East Asia) at ‘Let There Be Sport’ event in Bengaluru | Rohit Chintapali/BW Businessworld

“They might not want to open a book of biology. But if they do open a biology book, they grasp it much faster. Sportspeople learn quicker,” Chhetri added.

During a fireside conversation, India’s ace batsman Virat Kohli revealed that he was decent at studies and good at it when he was focused – except for mathematics. “I just couldn't (do well in mathematics). And even today, I just don't understand math. I am scared of how I’m going to teach anything to my daughter – if she has any questions. That really scares me.”

“But apart from math, I was decent at everything else. I didn't have enough time to do it, but when I did focus on it, I was pretty good. So, I never had trouble at school,” Kohli added.

Indian Ace Cricketer Virat Kohli at ‘Let There Be Sport’ event in Bengaluru | Rohit Chintapali/BW Businessworld

On Thursday, Kohli revealed his 10th standard marks sheet on a social media platform and captioned it: “It's funny how the things that add the least to your mark sheet, add the most to your character. #LetThereBeSport,” tipping his cap to sports which has played the biggest role in his life.

Speaking to BW Businessworld, Abhishek Ganguly (Managing Director at PUMA India & South East Asia) said that ‘Let There Be Sport’ was not just a mere campaign and termed it as a platform to encourage the sporting culture in India.

He said that India’s sporting culture needs to grow hand-in-hand with economic development which has been on a positive growth trajectory. “We all know that India will become a strong economic powerhouse. Look at our consumption story and the government is also doing a lot of things around employability, manufacturing, technology and lots more,” Ganguly explained.

But he expressed his displeasure at how sports is still viewed as a distraction in Indian society. “People think if you play sports, you will be bad at academics. This is untrue. Sports are only viewed as a ‘good-to-have’.”

Ganguly emphasised that sporting culture development and economic development have historically coincided globally. He quoted examples of Japan’s and China’s emergence in global sports and becoming economic superpowers. “This happened in the US too. These two things coincide and both things need to happen in India as well,” he said.

 PUMA India & Southeast Asia MD Abhishek Ganguly | BW Businessworld

The PUMA India MD said that the next 10 years will be India’s, but he also emphasised on the need for the country to be a fitter nation. “We need to build infrastructure, viewership and fandom. We also need to have athletes who are big in the global scene and have an everyday-athlete next door to us. In addition, we need to put sports in the curriculums and prioritise. All of this has to happen together,” he stressed.

BW Businessworld asked Ganguly about the role of PUMA in helping India’s sports industry. “As a leading sportswear brand, we have to play our part because it's also our responsibility. That's how our platforms like ‘Let There Be Sport’ – which is not a marketing campaign with a commercial objective – will contribute to India,” he said.

He affirmed that the campaign did not serve any immediate commercial objective as “it would not spike our sales tomorrow”. “It's long-term and contributing to growing the awareness around ‘if people play more sport – it will drive the culture of sports’ and, in turn, the market will get bigger. Eventually, brands like ours will stand to benefit. But that’s a very long-drawn commercial objective,” Ganguly said.

The PUMA India MD also added that he wanted the company to do purposeful business in India. “We are not in the business of selling just shoes and apparel,” he concluded.

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Puma India virat kohli Sunil Chhetri sports