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Asics was at the right place at the right time

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Sportswear and lifestyle brand, Asics has been aggressively launching stores to establish a strong presence and take its philosophy of a ‘sound mind in a sound body’ to every individual in India. Though late entrants in the sports wear scenario in India, Rajat Khurana, Director, Asics India believes that the brand couldn’t have asked for a better time to enter the market.

Your brand will soon be launching a digital film called ‘I move me’ tell us about it.

It is a series of three digital videos which will run for the next five months. It is an extension of our global campaign ‘I move me’ but with a localized flavour. In the first ad we are featuring 19 year old Rhea Yadav who was the youngest girl to conquer Khardungla Pass on a bike.

How important is advertising for the brand?

The first property we have been associated with in India is the Mumbai Marathon and we will be sponsors for it till at least 2019. We get our biggest business from western region of India so the association has been getting us great response. We do a lot of ground activities, if we capture first time runners, chances are that they will stay loyal to us. So we have also started a running club in Delhi last year which has close to 70 regular runners today. We have taken the concept to Mumbai as well.

You have recently launched Onitsuka Tiger stores in India, how do you differentiate between that and Asics Tiger?

Asics Tiger evolved globally in 2016. There is a thin line between it and Onitsuka Tiger which was developed keeping in mind the sneaker culture along the lines of European fashion. While both are lifestyle brands, Asics Tiger tilts more towards the street lifestyle fashion.

What kind of response has the brand received since launch?

We have 24 mono brand stores for Asics across India. We are expanding because we are growing at a healthy pace. Despite launching a few years ago, there is high brand awareness for Asics, thus we thought of launching Onitsuka Tiger also in India. The first store was opened in Palladium Mall, Mumbai and interestingly it became profitable in the very first month. From a retail dynamics it is very challenging for any store to be profitable in the very first month especially because of high rentals in such premium malls, but we managed. The next store lauch for Onitsuka Tiger will happen in less than four months and will add two more before end of 2018. Similarly we shall add 12 Asics stores next year.

What percentage of your products are sourced in India, will you follow the ‘Make in India’ model in a big way anytime soon?

We started local sourcing apparel here in 2015 winter and footwear by 2016 winter. While apparel forms 10% of our business, 15% of it is sourced from within India and out of the total footwear which forms 90% of our business, 8% is sourced from within India. But those are only shoes falling in the lower price points. In India apparels sell in equal numbers as the footwear, so there is a lot of scope for us to grow. We are hoping apparels will start contributing to 15% of the business by next year.

You entered the Indian market in May, 2015. Does the late entry put you at a disadvantage?

Considering our portfolio, I don’t think so. The core sport for us globally is running which has developed in India only over the past 5-6 years. Only recently have there been a growing number of marathons and gyms in the country. People were not very health conscious before this. Had we entered the market earlier, selling such high technology performance shoes would not have been feasible. Now people understand the importance of running and being healthy. I think we are at the right place at the right time. India business is quite small for us right now as we have just started. Moreover 60-70% of the market is captured by 3-4 foreign brands which have been present here for more than a decade. We hope to catch up with them soon.

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Neeta Nair

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