Home / INTERVIEW / “It was like a startup. We had no idea of knowing that one day we’d become the market leader”

“It was like a startup. We had no idea of knowing that one day we’d become the market leader”

“It was like a startup. We had no idea of knowing that one day we’d become the market leader,”
Abhishek Ganguly, Managing Director, PUMA India

Abhishek Ganguly was only the second person to join PUMA in India back in 2005. Now he’s seen PUMA grow to become the leading brand in the country and he is the Managing Director. An interview with Abhishek Ganguly was recently published in Catch Up magazine. The interview was published for the readers of ‘Grain Feed and Milling Magazine’ courtesy of CATch Up.

As part of our “Only See Great” series, we caught up with Abhishek to talk about his career, the Indian business and what it was like to go for a career change and join a company that was completely new to the market at the time.

Abhishek had everything in place three years after he had finished his MBA. He was working for the number one brand at the time. He had a clear career path set out but decided to throw it all aside and start anew at PUMA when the opportunity arose in 2005. PUMA at that time was new to the Indian market and Abhishek was only the second person to be hired.

“It was like a startup. We had no idea of knowing that one day we’d become the market leader,” Abhishek told CATch Up. “But the fact that I was hired to lead sales and marketing for a sports brand, which I knew would take off in India, it was a gamble worth taking.”

The beginnings were tough. The story of PUMA in India had to be written from scratch, a strategy had to be put in place, people had to be hired to staff warehouses and offices and Abhishek and his team had to rely on some door-to-door methods to get things started.

“I remember sitting in the reception of some of the companies that are very strong partners today and we did not get through. We sat there with a bag full of shoes,” Abhishek remembers. “But we were there. Along the way, they noticed that we had good products but told us they didn’t have shelf space. Just getting a foot in the door was tough.”

Even though PUMA was late to arrive in the Indian market, Abhishek remembers that he and his team were able to avoid some of the mistakes that competitors made. Abhishek says there was a time when PUMA reached a tipping point and the brand started to take off.

“There was a point of time when things started happening for us. Suddenly, our products started selling out after initial failures, our stores picked up, consumers started leaving very positive feedback about their retail experience,” he says. “We did our marketing campaigns and they were very different from others. We suddenly had a team which was working very well together.”

Abhishek also credits a strong team and a pragmatic approach for the success of PUMA India.

“Over-analysis leads to paralysis. We need to take decisions, make the mistakes, learn from them. Once you learned from the mistakes, the decisions you make then they become your best decisions. I think that is a very important part of the story,” he says.

While PUMA India’s business was doing well this year, a new and completely unexpected challenge arose when the country was hit very hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Cities went into lockdown, PUMA employees worried about their families getting sick and many people knew someone who had to go to hospital because of the virus. This changed everything for Abhishek and his team.

“The surprise for everyone in the country was the speed at which the virus came. We set up help lines. We helped people by ensuring access to medical care and oxygen. We assisted people who had the virus but lived on their own, getting them food, medicine, or other support,” he says. “We worked left, right and centre to ensure that we got hold of enough vaccines to vaccinate all of our people and not just our own office and store people but also people who work in partner stores and distribution centers.”

During this difficult time, PUMA India rolled out vaccination drives across the country for employees and their families in India and as of now 93% of PUMA employees in the country and their families have been vaccinated.

To help those who need it most, PUMA also partnered with GiveIndia, the country’s most trusted online giving platform. That way PUMA India raised about 175,000 euros to provide cash relief for low-income families who lost an earning family member to COVID.

In the long term, Abhishek is optimistic about PUMA. The company remains India’s largest sports brand, with Sportstyle and Running/Training performing well. Products such as the new Nitro running series as well as the Muze, RS-X and Rider franchises are a hit with Indian consumers.

A strong line-up of local brand ambassadors, from the world of sports and entertainment complete the picture. Going forward, Abhishek has set himself a new set of tasks to see how he can maintain the top spot in India while keeping the business growing.

“I think there is no reason why PUMA would be anything but extremely bullish in Indian market. We are growing profitability, our brand aspiration makes us one of the most aspirational brands in the country, not just in our space,” Abhishek says.

Source: Online/KSU

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