What began with the challenge of buying genuine football club merchandise, paved the way for a portal dedicated to the hassle-free purchase of football club merchandise. And now the portal – Goalsquad has started selling merchandise for other sports including NBA (basket ball), shared Aashay Shah, Founder and CEO, Goalsquad.com in a conversation with License India.
Talk to us about the journey of Goalsquad.
I have been a soccer fan from almost since 1994 I have been watching the game. In 2013, one of my friends gifted me a couple of official figurines of these football players. Later when I was trying to find more for my collection, I couldn’t find any such thing in India in terms of genuine merchandise. That’s when I realised there must be many more people like me wanting original merchandise of football clubs in the Indian market. I did my research, contacted certain clubs and got authority to start importing and distributing the merchandise in Indian markets. We started Goalsquad in January 2014 and since then we’ve been growing. In 2015 January, we even got licensing agreement to manufacture the merchandise of certain football clubs of our own for India. Also we are selling merchandise for India Super League (ISL). So we are a complete genuine sports merchandise distribution and retail company.
What made you include brand licensing into your business model?
For the first 4-5 months, we had certain challenges with respect to manufacturing and approvals. It took around six months to get all the approvals and everything in place. And now with manufacturing taking place locally, we are able to get our price points lower to suit the Indian market. Earlier the merchandise was imported and hence the ticket size was high. Due to licensing agreement, we are able to go into offline distribution as well in a big way.
What all brands do you have in your kitty?
Currently our main focus is on football and we have a bit of basketball merchandise. In future we are looking to expand in cricket, tennis and other sports. We are looking to get whatever sports that we can try to manufacture or retail, on one single platform. We work for all the major football clubs. Now we have got the licenses for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester City along with ISL and two basketball clubs – Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks. We have distribution rights for remaining clubs but are trying to get Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Talk to us about your retail presence.
We have placed our products at Hamleys at Phoenix Mall in Mumbai which is their first store in India and 12 Crossword stores across country. Also we are selling through boutique stores along with selling at our own portal www.goalsquad.com. We had plans for a standalone store but it is a bit difficult to convince people in market that this can be a standalone store. But we’d want to open stores in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru once the offline sales pick up.
How has brand licensing helped you scale up?
Getting license helped us increasing our distribution and point of sales because initially while importing, the margins were only suitable for online retail and that too were marginal, given the custom duty and other charges etc. Right now 75 percent of our transactions take place online, remaining 25 percent is offline. However, we are trying to get this ratio to 60:40 in times to come.
What were the initial challenges?
Being taken seriously by the clubs was also a challenge. Me being someone from hospitality background and completely new to retail, we took time to understand the retail operation in India especially the pricing. Setting up and getting the right people was a challenge. Basis our research, the sports merchandise market is somewhere around Rs 5000 crore in India, but that obviously includes a combination of cricket, basketball, WWE etc. Now with all the new leagues and younger kids being brand conscious, people have started to procure more official merchandise.
In nation where cricket is religion, what potential do you see with soccer merchandise?
As they say, if cricket is the game of father, football is the game of the son. With constant time crunch, people don’t have patience to sit throughout the cricket matches and that is what is one of the reasons for 20-20 formats. Also football has big followers in Kolkata, Kerala, and Mumbai. Right now football is second to cricket, but in times to come, it will be at par with cricket.