The story began in 2006 when the Indian retail sector was in the midst of a boom. Odds were stacked up against upcoming retail players as global sports brands had already swooped in and grabbed big chunks of the market share. Naysayers created a sense of doubt for upcoming brands as they believed “There is no space for a fourth brand after three other global brands have filled up the bases.”

But this did not deter PUMA, Abhishek Ganguly and his team. In a bootstrapping business journey, PUMA India had grown from a few stores to creating a wide gap from competition with 35% market share in 2019.

“There’s no proven formula for a global brand to establish afresh in a new market, or a recipe for success. However we have had a gradual growth and we made no decisions that we had to take back.”

In an engaging conversation in our recent fireside chat ‘Forever Faster in the Changing World’, Abhishek Ganguly (Managing Director, PUMA India & Southeast Asia) talks about PUMA’s journey in India, strategies behind building the brand, and the excitement of influencing the way people live through sports and lifestyle. Here are the top 5 takeaways from PUMA’s digital and agile journey.

1) Out and loud with an online strategy

All great retail brands need an evolving customer interaction, and PUMA’s focus was to become a favorite brand with compelling retail strategies. Not only did they become the first brand to bring loyalty in India, but also began a strong digital outreach in 2009, at a time when retailers thought of ecommerce as a threat to brick and mortar. PUMA began collaboration with Myntra and Flipkart fashion, before establishing their own website. Abhishek also emphasized that channel differentiation and pricing tools are very important parameters to be fine-tuned while balancing online and offline channels.

2) Agility is the word of the moment

Changes in the retail industry were happening even before Covid, and leaders should sense and learn these changes. The team at PUMA India constantly hopes to ‘fail fast’, accept the failure and be in a constant learning mindset, enabling the brand to stay relevant to the period.

Agility goes hand in hand with innovation according to Abhishek. “By agility, I don’t mean mindless speed, but quick thinking, acting, and spreading that action throughout the organization.”

3) A people-first culture

What do you do to make Monday morning interesting for your team? That’s an important question every leader should ask themselves. Abhishek believes that employees work better if they are in the best frame of mind which directly impacts productivity and therefore it is vital for a business to ensure that their employees are positively influenced.

4) Finding the core in the startup ecosystem

How can the store interact with customers hyper-locally and bring in a personalized touch to the store? Abhishek has always been interested in technology-driven startups. He looks for innovative solutions in the angel ecosystem from the offline retail’s inventory and customer engagement point of view.

5) Sports inspires you to be a better leader

The global sportswear brand has always been passionate about cricket and has been associated with other sports like football. Abhishek wanted to keep the brand locally relevant to India by signing up with legends like Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and many IPL players. The brand has especially hit the jackpot with Virat Kohli as the cricket sensation has a huge social media following.

When drawing parallels between leadership and sports, Abhishek admires the ‘never give up’ attitude and inherent team spirit culture in sports. He said that leaders must develop an athlete’s mindset to face the uncertainties. To know more about their retail strategies, personalized engagement, agile management; watch the entire fireside chat discussion here.

Keerthana Tiwari
Keerthana is a business journalist and is adept at catching market and retail trends. She enjoys analyzing facts and figures and often shares those insights through her writing. Before becoming a writer, Keerthana also had a stint in Biotechnology research.