Ajay Mahajan’s family, which had looked at the ICC Cricket World Cup frenzy with indifference, is now getting ready for some real action—the Rugby World Cup later this year.
The Mahajans manufacture and export rugby equipment, and just as the cricket World Cup creates new business opportunities for those who make cricket-related products, the 20-nation rugby World Cup has begun bringing promotional orders for this Jalandhar-based family.
The difference, of course, is that India is a nation of cricket fans, while rugby enthusiasts remain few. The Mahajans’ business, therefore, is driven by sales outside India.
Their first promotional orders came from Richter Engineering Ltd, the UK-based maker of the popular “Predator” brand of rugby equipment. Richter outsources all forms of rugby equipment, from balls to protective gear, to the Mahajans on an exclusive arrangement.
Meanwhile, an order for 8,000 rugby balls has been placed by DeWalt Machine Tools Co. of the US, manufacturer and marketer of high-performance industrial power tools and accessories. The balls will carry the DeWalt logo and will be manufactured in Jalandhar under the “Predator” brand. Companies often give out or raffle such freebies during sporting events to promote their brands.
India’s total exports of sports goods in 2005-06 were Rs456 crore; inflatable balls—which include everything from rugby to soccer to volleyballs—represented nearly Rs170 crore.
The Mahajan family owns two companies, Uma International and Richter Engineering (India) Ltd, and the latter will execute the DeWalt order by the end of May.
The 2007 Rugby World Cup will be held in France and two venues in the UK between September and October. With another round of frenzy likely to build up over the next five months in rugby-loving nations—and that includes big markets such as Japan, the US, Canada and South Africa—Mahajan is confident about more promotional offers coming.
“It is the ‘Predator’ brand that they will turn to, my business will come from Richter,” he said. And though it is a once-in-four-years business opportunity, Mahajan welcomes the extra Rs10 lakh or so that these orders will fetch.
It is not only Richter Engineering India that stands to benefit; Uma International, which also manufactures and exports rugby equipment and jerseys, expects similar orders from their regular buyers across the world.
Other rugby equipment exporters in Jalandhar, such as Savy International, the biggest player in this sector, have started getting orders, but won’t disclose the details.
Mahajan’s hopes stem from the huge promotional budgets that beer and real-estate companies set aside for major rugby tournaments.
But there is another reason to be hopeful. Mahajan charges Richter Engineering around £3 (Rs255) for his rugby balls that are often priced between £24 and £50 in Europe. This gives Richter an added incentive to push its “Predator” balls during and before the World Cup, all outsourced from Jalandhar.