US-based hydration gear manufacturer and retailer CamelBak is likely to start distributing its products in India through supermarkets, starting August this year. It is currently in talks with HyperCity for the same. CamelBak’s new stores will be multi-brand outlets. To begin with, the brand has started associating with cycling, adventure, and outdoor gear stores. Next year onwards, the brand will look for franchisees in the country. The retailer is targeting sales worth Rs 5 crore from India this fiscal.
“We are also giving ample importance to online distribution, having tied-up with Flipkart and other e-commerce sites,” said Mehul Arora, Co-Founder, Realm. CamelBak has recently entered the Indian market in collaboration with Realm as its distribution partner in the country. Arora confirmed that the retailer will have a similar business model in India as followed in the US, UK, and other countries. He added: “The roll-out is phased, with the sports and recreational range getting primary focus for first six-to-nine months. We will start incorporating the military range in our portfolio for the Indian forces from September later this year. We have already started retailing in stores around military hubs, such as Dehradun and Pune, and have also made the military products range available even to retail customers.”
Offline sales dominate the online sales of CamelBak products with a ratio of 70:30, respectively. “However, the online sales response has been overwhelming and we are getting orders and inquiries from all parts of the country,” Arora added. He said the company will introduce entire CamelBak range in India as available internationally.
The top three selling product categories for CamelBak in India include insulated sports bottles (CamelBak Podium Chill and CamelBak Podium Big Chill), everyday bottles (CamelBak Better Bottle Insulated and CamelBak Better Bottle Stainless Steel), and cycling hydration backpacks (CamelBak MULE and CamelBak Classic).
CamelBak has no plans to open exclusive stores in India as of now. “Exclusive stores will not serve our purpose of dominating the bottles segment with very high penetration. Extensive distribution network is the focus,” Arora confirmed.
To increase visibility and brand awareness, CamelBak is participating in Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore marathons plus cyclothons, as a key marketing exercise. It is also tying-up with local sports championships as prize sponsors. Large-scale advertorials, educational programmes focussing on optimal hydration for various fitness, sports and adventure groups will also be initiated by Realm. Digital and print-based marketing in magazines, newspapers, and websites will also follow.
Talking about the future of sports goods industry in India, Arora said: “Sports as a genre are evolving. India today is at the brink of sports revolution, wherein sports/activities previously unheard of are now finding a foothold in the country, be it a fast growing audience for football, mixed martial arts, or rejuvenated hockey. Sports in India is taking giant leaps, and being a direct derivative of the same, sports goods industry today is on the threshold of a boom. The awareness of the participants has also increased as they are now more keen to learn from sports professionals. They are also willing to invest in the right gear and equipment. Sports and fitness are no longer trends; they today have started to find their space in the life of an Indian. Even though the industry is at a very nascent stage, with these socio-demographic changes and backed by a large prospective customer base, sports goods industry is one of the most prominent evolving sectors around.”
Commenting on the challenges faced by adventure gear retailers in India, Arora further added that outdoor adventure is a relatively new segment in the country. Consumers don’t know much about related brands and international standards. He said that almost 90 percent of the participants are first time travellers and thus they go for cheaper entry level products due to which they fail to have a good experience. Currently, sports equipment in India is largely catered through traditional sports stores which are a highly fragmented industry and still focus on cricket predominantly. Another key challenge according to him is the high import duty making the gear expensive and out-of-reach of the average consumer.
Sharing his views on CamelBak’s competitors in India, Arora said that in terms of direct competition in line with the value or segments that CamelBak focusses on, there are no similar players in the market. It does face some competition from established brands like Nike, Reebok, and Adidas. “But then again these brands do not consider bottle as their mainstream business and focus on them more as accessories.”
Highlighting the USP of CamelBak products, Arora said: “The quality of our products is inherent as our bottles and reservoirs are 100 percent BPA-Free along with anti-bacterial lining, which ensures that the hygiene of the bottle is maintained.”