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“We want to become the most desirable ‘Sportlifestyle’ company in India”

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With sportswear now setting the trend for fashion footwear, sportswear brands are gradually witnessing a transformation into lifestyle brands. Puma, one of the world’s leading sports and lifestyle brands, is synonymous with this evolution where sport merges with lifestyle.

To be specific about the brand image in India too, Puma is focused about being categorised in the ‘lifestyle’ band as a ‘Sportlifestyle’ brand and not as a mere sportswear brand.

Rajiv Mehta, MD, Puma Sports India Pvt. Ltd. shares the brand philosophy of Puma India with IndiaRetailing in a brief conversation below. Mehta holds a B. Tech degree from UDCT, Mumbai, an M.S.E from University of Pennsylvania and MBA from INSEAD.

IndiaRetailing (IR): What is the driving philosophy of retail operations at Puma India?

Rajiv Mehta (RM): Own the company! Everything that one does must have a direct impact on the company’s profitability. This has brought about a cost-conscious culture within the retail organisation. The staff and the managers think alike in terms of working hard to push sales higher and working efficiently to save costs. Thus the profitability of the company is all thanks to the employees!

IR: While taking your retail operation forward in the Indian context, what is the biggest learning from the current slowdown?

RM: Just need to motivate the team members, think positive, and look inwards rather than blaming the economy. In the process we needed to incentivise people to work harder as we knew that the brand had the potential; it was only a matter of utilisation of the already successful brand image and reaping the benefits of it to the fullest. We could have sat behind the recession garb and let sales slip, but we looked inwards and decided to cut costs, work harder and innovate in our communication to the consumer!

IR: Your personal vision when it comes to leading your retail team.

RM: To become the most desirable ‘Sportlifestyle’ company in India. Thus everything we do is focused from the view point of being desirable, starting from the events of consumer communication, paying ample attention to the store displays, promotions of the brand, the quality of the product and last but not the least, the pricing of the merchandise. All these efforts are put together to bring about a comprehensive offering to the end consumer and at the same time help the brand come closer to the mission of being the most desirable.

IR: Given the two schools of thought that are currently dominating the Indian retail industry — ‘aggressive expansion’ versus ‘slow but steady expansion’ — which has attracted you as your own retail strategy?

RM: We have always been the slow-and-steady philosophy believers. That has helped us tide over the downturn and grow healthily even during these times. We have been able to exceed targets and satisfy the stakeholders and consumers alike.

IR: Your comment on the expression ‘Powerful Retailer’. According to you, which are the three most ‘powerful retailers’ in the world and why.

RM: Firstly I would mention Sam Walton of Wal-Mart for his vision and timing of creating the world’s most valued retail chain. Secondly McDonald’s, for becoming a household name in the foodservice retailing business along with being consistent globally in their taste and quality. Third would be, according to me, Macy’s; even though not global, they have managed to define and redefine time and again the meaning of a department store. Macy’s is the quintessential store where one gets everything that one wants.

–Sangita Ghosh

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