Fila has had a long and colourful history! Right from its humble beginnings in Biella, Italy over a hundred years ago to the colossal stand that it enjoys today in a country like India, Fila has endured as a brand!
Fila entered the sportswear market in the 70s and has been a trailblazing vanguard at the nexus of the sports and lifestyle industry. Over the years, the brand has also been associated with many iconic moments in sporting history – from Bjorn Borg winning five Wimbledon titles in a row, Reinhold Messner being the first man to summit Mount Everest without bottled oxygen to German Silva winning the New York Marathon despite taking a wrong turn a mile short of the finish.
Parallelly, the brand’s business and reputation has also grown exponentially in the bygone years, buttressing on its brand mantra and producing incredible products inspired by the style, elegance and passion of its inherent Italian heritage.
The brand’s business in India has also seen a similar resurgence – driven by a completely new product portfolio, underpinned with a strong offering of its Heritage footwear and apparel collection. IMAGES Business of Fashion had the opportunity of catching up with Rohan Batra, Fila India’s Managing Director, who expounded on the brand’s robust retail plans and product category expansion as well as its aggressive brand building exercise. Excerpts from the interview…
Tell us about the key product lines of Fila being marketed in India. What are the new ones scheduled for the coming year?
In the coming year, Fila’s focus will remain on the Heritage apparel and footwear collection, but we will also continue to invest behind key categories in sport such as Motorsports, Tennis and Basketball. Towards the end of the year, we will also be debuting our first performance collection specially designed for the Indian market.
Innovation is the key in sportswear. Tell us about your latest innovations which have differentiated your brand from others?
Globally, we have sought innovation in new materials development with our R&D centers in China, Brazil and Korea. Through these centers we have managed to introduce materials such as Energized Rubber, DLS cushioning, Evergrip and Evergrind abrasion resistant outsoles and FLOW cooling technology.
Our local innovation for India is focused on specifically designing motorsports footwear for the Indian rider, specifically high abrasion resistant materials on contact points on footwear. We have also introduced the HEXO and COMFORTX cushioning technologies to ensure comfort, flexibility and lightweight performance in both lifestyle and sports footwear.
Our biggest advantage is our connect with the local Indian market, where we are focused on innovating products that suit the tastes of real consumers and creating beautiful products that service these needs.
How important is India as a market for Fila? What is your growth strategy in the country?
India is a very strategically important market for the brand. We feel we are well placed to grow to five-fold in the coming five years.
The strategy we are following focus sharply on EBO presence across India in metros and mini metros followed by smaller towns. Enhancement of the digital sales channels through strategic partnerships with the key retailers is very important as well. We will also establish a large footprint across various key offline retail partners for different product categories across Heritage and the sportswear businesses.
What is your sales strategy for localized retail? Tell us about your growth in Tier I, II and III cities in India?
The licensed structure of Fila India gives the brand a unique opportunity to understand the local retail and consumer environment to create products, design them, manufacture them and promote them through a team based in India. We focus on collecting as much data and feedback as we can on the ground and tailoring our product/ price/ distribution mix to suit the local market. We have the agility and flexibility to develop, collaborate or introduce products into the market that most subsidiaries of global brands do not have.
As seen in your reports, Fila’s Heritage business has doubled every year. Can you throw some light on this business and key success factors?
We believe that globally the Fila Heritage line has seen resurgence and the designs have been accepted and appreciated by celebrities, fashion stylists, magazines, and consumers across the world. Our objective is to ensure the same range is available in India and is a true representation of the design sensibilities of the brand. Over the next one year, you will see the same collections being available in India along with collaborations from India that will reflect the same design language as the brand.
Tell us about your retail footprint with regards to exclusive outlets, large format stores and multi brand outlets?
Fila currently has two standalone stores across Mumbai at Fort and Malad with the new retail design concept. In addition to its own stores, Fila has over 1,200 retail touch points through 250 large format lifestyle stores (such as Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Central and more) and a national dealer network of multi-brand outlets across India.
The brand is sold online through multiple e-commerce portals such as Myntra, Amazon, Flipkart, Jabong, Koovs and Ajio.
In addition to brand-owned stores, Fila’s plans to expand its retail footprint through a franchise network of standalone stores are also in the pipeline.
Tell us about your retail expansion plans in general and in specific to your iconic stores?
Fila is looking to open 6 to 7 stores in the remaining months of FY 18-19 in Pune, Hyderabad, Mumbai among other key Metros. Fila is undergoing a global reboot with its evolution into a fashion label. In India, the brand is planning to invest in exclusive outlets and is considering both Tier II and III cities in their expansion plans.
Throw some light on your Omnichannel strategy?
I think Omnichannel strategy is something that every single company across India is working towards. A true reflection of this would be when a brand is able to offer a consumer sitting in Bilaspur is able to buy a product available in the Mumbai or Delhi store in real time through various back linked system and channels. We are internally aligning and correcting things as we move to higher growth phase. Without a doubt Omnichannel will be a way of life for us much like the other players in the retail segment in the near future.
Leo Borg has signed a deal with Fila which will start from 2019? Can you share more details on this association?
Fila has a long and distinguished history in the world of tennis that continues with endorsements of ATP World Tour and WTA Tour athletes. Fila is a sponsor of the BNP Paribas Open, the Dell Technologies Tennis Hall of Fame Open, the Rogers Cup and Coupe Rogers, the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, the Mercedes Cup, the Argentina Open, the Rio Open, the German Open, and the Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship. In addition to event partnerships, Fila is an official supplier to Tennis Canada, Junior Tennis Champions Center, Van der Meer Tennis, John Newcombe Tennis Ranch, and the Kim Clijsters Academy in Belgium.
Closer to home Fila also partnered with ATP for the Tata Maharashtra Open last year and we are partnering with them this year as well. Earlier this year, Fila reignited its partnership with Bj0rn, a relationship that dates back to 1975. The partnership with Leo is a continuation of our commitment to the next generation of tennis players.
Tell us about your recent representation at Milan Fashion Week?
Since its beginnings, Fila has been synonymous with performance and sophistication, we have always chosen to defy expectations and challenge our limitations. Once again, we chose to combine the legendary history of the brand with our brave and outstanding vision for the future by showcasing at Milan Fashion Week. Not only that but we also chose to have an exhibition at the prestigious, cultural institution of La Triennale di Milano, setting a milestone that will celebrate the brand’s centenary history.
The Milan Fashion week collection melds our past and future together.
Tell us about Fila’s approach to sustainability?
Our newly created design lab in India is testing the use of multiple locally available sustainable materials indigenous to India to incorporate into our materials development for domestic production. The design lab is an investment we are making to ensure our products are locally relevant but also environmentally sound.
The focus towards sustainability is paramount, within the brand and the larger group of businesses to whom we belong. Our focus to design and develop products that have the least environmental impact is strong and we are working towards a future where we partner with manufacturers who take care in the sustainability of production processes for products and also raw materials.