"We are in the right place at the right time"

Updated: Feb 26 2008, 08:09am hrs
He believes in creating desired circumstances if he cant find them. No wonder he chose to sell products of a golf-related brand in a country that swears by cricket. A former executive director at Reebok, Rahul Singh was responsible for handling its apparel business in India and also set up a sound sourcing base for exports from South Asia. Currently, as chief executive of Greg Norman Collection (India), a leading global golf-related lifestyle apparel and accessories brand inspired by legendary golfer Greg Norman, Singh drives sales, marketing and manufacturing for the brand in India. In a freewheeling interview with FEs Banikinkar Pattanayak, Singh shares his companys vision for India and why India is such a compelling growth story.

Golf isnt a popular sport in India not yet. What prompted you to roll out a golf-related brand in the country

Its true that golf is at its nascent stage in India. But it is also the fastest growing sport in the country. Being a truly global sport, it can be played as an individual or as a team, irrespective of age and athletic ability. Its the sport to dress for, to make a style statement. Nothing is better than attiring in a golf-inspired brand on the greens and off it. Moreover, there are not too many brands in this segment. Its indeed a high growth segment, and India is the cynosure of the world because of its fast growing market. You cant ignore its potential.

What sort of a tie-up does Greg Norman Collection have with Better Than Before

Better Than Before has a sourcing-to-selling relationship with Greg Norman Collection (GNC). Its the outsourcing arm from India for apparel exports to all 32 countries where the brand sells its products. About 30% of the global Greg Norman Collection products are made in India. On the selling front, the company operates as a licensee of the brand for South Asia and the entire global linewhether made in India or elsewhereis offered to the consumers at the same quality and timeframe.

One of the most important facts is that the price tag is different for different countries, which is based on the strength of the economy and the purchasing power of its people. Obviously, you cant sell the products with the same price in the US and in India. But that doesnt mean that we are rolling out subsidy for our products in this country. Its just that the margin on our collections will be less. Its not philanthropy; its pure business.

What are GNCs plans for India How many stores are you going to add and what about the planned investment

Apart from sale points at multi-branded stores like pro-shops in golf courses and department stores, we plan to open 10 exclusive stores this year. We have a target of rolling out 100 stores in the next five years. The showrooms will be launched in metros and tier I cities, that too in premium malls. From the second year, we will be rather aggressive in our approach. Investment will be to the tune of Rs 50 lakh per store.

How much of a role does FDI restrictions play in this segment Would you like a more liberalised regime

FDI restricts multi-brand retail, but is permissible under the single-brand window with a 51:49 equity ratio. Currently, international brands retail in India through franchise, licence or distribution routes. If FDI for single-brand retail is permitted, a lot of brands will be ready to invest in India. And I believe it will be a win-win for the economy and the consumer at large. So we would definitely want the restrictions to be eased. Why should you restrict anybody and, who are you trying to protect in this process

How different are Greg Norman collections from those of Reebok or adidas or Nike because all of them project themselves as lifestyle brands

Reebok, adidas and Nike are active sportswear brands. In the golf segment, they focus only on performance wear. GNC is not limited to that category because its a complete golf-inspired lifestyle product line that is positioned on luxury, performance and style.

Who do you consider your competitors in India and what is your edge over them

Our competition is with any brand that is vying for the same pie. On the performance side, the sporting giants are a competition and on the lifestyle side, we compete with Lacoste, Nautica etc. On our part, we try and excite the consumer into buying our products. I am not saying others are not doing the same. Our perception of the sport is different, so is our focus. He is our consumer who feels golf is not just a game, its a lifestyle. Hence right now our target consumer is the person who plays golf or is inspired by it, irrespective of the age group. But yes, anybody is welcome if they want to buy.

Are you planning to expand your product base in the country

Yes, as we get more space to showcase our collections the line would be expanded to cover a variety of product categories and gender. But that will happen gradually. Nothing is final as yet.

Your products cater to a niche segment and are a bit expensive. Any plan to create products for the masses in India

Like I mentioned, GNC combines luxury, performance and style to create products of distinction. India is considered the largest wealth creator in the world, both in mind and matter. These haves want a lifestyle where golf is an integral part, and this segment is becoming mass. Moreover, you cant categorise consumers just on the basis of purchasing power. Because there are consumers who have the money but may not want to buy products at high prices. Again, there will be the not-so-rich people who may be interested in purchasing the products. But yes, we will be creating premium products. As of now, we dont have any plans to produce cheap products.

So whats the crux of your marketing strategy

We will plan our strategy looking at metros and tier I cities. We usually sponsor a lot of golf events and promote our brand there. We do lot of clothing and tools for them. Though we have plans to advertise through the media, we are not, at the moment, going for television as it is more of a mass medium.

How much of legendary golfer Greg Norman is reflected in the Greg Norman Collection

In addition to his impressive on-course achievements, it is what Norman has accomplished off the golf course that amazes most. It is his overriding passion and desire for family, golf, business and adventure that has made him popular among his fans around the globe. A synergy of his Australian origin and American fashion sensibilities converge to shape each seasons collection, setting it apart from all others.

How convinced are you about the success of this brand in this country

Timing is always critical to the success of a brand, and we believe that the brand is in the right place at the right time. Everything is here. India is the flavour of the world and has been on top in the optimism index. That means the consumer is optimistic, which is a very good sign for great business opportunities ahead.

Do you have any plans to bring MacGregor products to India

Yes. And we will be doing it within the next three to four months. First, we will be selling MacGregor products at golf courses and shops. However, we may think rolling out standalone or exclusive stores for the equipment, depending on the sales.

Did the split with Reebok affect Greg Normans brand value in any way

Principal ownership has no effect on the consumers perception of the brand. They see it as a Greg Norman product. Moreover, everything is the samesame staff and same technology. Its just that the baton has changed hands.