Canterbury Ltd, a company known for rugby gear globally, believes that to succeed in the Indian sports goods market, there’s only one game it can sell. So next year, it plans to enter India with cricket products.
The New Zealand-headquartered Canterbury—which has been associated with rugby for over a century and declares “Canterbury is rugby”—is developing a cricket line that it will introduce in India some time next year, a senior executive in charge of Asian operations said.
Canterbury’s sudden interest in the country is understandable; no one doubts the enormous size of the annual Indian branded sports goods market—dominated by cricket. Industry estimates put it at Rs700 crore, though in the absence of any significant study, the figure’s accuracy is questionable.
Additionally, India exported more than $500 million worth of sports goods in 2005-06, much of it outsourced by global brands such as Predator, the rugby equipment brand popular in the United Kingdom. Canterbury too regularly sources its products from Indian manufacturers through licensed vendors.
But the company said the time had come to establish the Canterbury brand in India, and cricket was the preferred vehicle. Brendan Cheyne, general manager of Asian operations of the company, said India’s early exit from the ICC Cricket World Cup, and the nationwide angst following its defeat, would not impact Canterbury’s plans. “We need at least a year, and the furore will be over by then,” he said.
Unlike other major sports goods players that have entered the country, Canterbury will not set up exclusive retail outlets or a separate Indian subsidiary, Cheyne said in a telephone interview from Auckland, New Zealand. Initially, the company will work through Indian distributors.
Elsewhere in the world, Canterbury has set up separate companies—it has 16 subsidiaries—or has sold marketing rights, as in South Africa, where Brimstone Investment Corp. Ltd last year bought the rights to make rugby and sports clothes under the Canterbury of New Zealand brand.
Puma Sports India Pvt. Ltd managing director Rajiv Mehta, whose company launched a range of golf equipment earlier this month, said there is always room for new players in this huge market. “New brands will create a buzz in our sector,” he said. “Competition is always healthy.”
Canterbury’s first step will be to find distribution partners and identify multi-sports specialty stores where Canterbury products will be available. Apart from cricket, it will also look at hockey products.
Unlike Puma India, which recently signed on former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly as its brand ambassador for an undisclosed amount, or Reebok, that had former India hockey captain Dhanraj Pillay as its face during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, Canterbury will not sign on any star athlete to endorse its products. Indian cricketers are too expensive, Cheyne said.
He said Canterbury products would be made available to actual users—players on the field—through outfitting local or regional teams. “It is a bottom-up approach,” he said.