Making living out of something I have always loved-Sports for all, all for sports

Naman Kanotra | December 18,2013 02:56 pm IST

Do you dream about owning a luxury car, a home with modern amenities, or have a swimming pool in your backyard, and office at places like the Wall Street ? The only thing which can get you all this is money. MBA is a short route (as assumed) taken by many to get the white collar jobs which can help you get those huge salaries and the amount of money which can fulfill your dreams.

The first step towards such white collar jobs is what summer internship is all about.

An MBA college has diversified profiles ranging from students having no hands on experience to students who have good seven to eight years of experience; the ones with experience see internship as a respite, getting away from the haunting text books they had left behind years back and the ones with no/little hands on experience take it as a challenge, full of confidence and excitement to witness the professional world.

Once you enter a B-school, you taste, you smell and you feel competition. Everyone tries to showcase their talent with an intention to improve their profiles because at the end it all boils down to who made it through those grilling interviews (willingly or unwillingly) where you have to slash throats of friends and foe to become an equal competitor.

While working for one of the best custodian banks (JPMC) in the world, I decided to pursue an MBA. I was still confused whether to follow the path I had selected after graduation (Financial sector) or to try something new.

Six months into the program, a senior suggested to try something different, something which adds value to my profile, and something which shows that I can adapt to changes and work in diversified profiles. That’s when I applied to the biggest sports retail brand of the world “Decathlon”.

Being a National level sports person I confidently sailed through all the interview rounds and landed in Mumbai for my summer training.

Entering the world’s biggest sports retail chain might give goose bumps to many, I was no exception. But, the company was surely an exceptional case. I was the only one in a formal attire, it was not an office but a huge store, a sports store, where every employee, even the managers were in casuals. The induction (again, not a very formal one) lasted for just 20-25 minutes which dealt with just an overview and dos and don’ts in the organization. Within half an hour I was put to business, doing retail sales, getting on-the-job training. One of the passion brands of the company dealt in Team sports like: – Basketball, Football, Volleyball etc. My job was to find what kind of customers can be targeted for this brand (Brand Kipsta). The most astonishing part of my work that I realized in the initial 2-3 weeks was that people were not aware about the brand as there was hardly any advertising or marketing activities, reason quoted by a manager- “The company doesn’t believe in incurring advertisement cost which is eventually passed on to the customers by increasing the cost of the product” (With a vision of providing sports for all, the strategy looked perfect).

Mumbai, being the financial capital of the country has got the purchasing power but is it well equipped with facilities which can be used to play team sports like basketball, football and volleyball? Even if these facilities are available, are they are accessible to the common man? Are they in usable condition? With many such questions in my mind I laid down a plan to study the market in 4 phases to determine who and what kind of customers can be the potential buyers for the brand.

The 4 Phases:

1. Finding facilities (where these sports can be played and have appropriate playing conditions).

2. Competitor analysis (Studying the product range and price range, the retailers have in the surrounding area).

3. Questionnaire (Customer perception about the price and brands they prefer with 10 different variables like colour / type of shoes, balls, jersey, celebrity association etc)

4. Internal data analysis (finding correlation between what has been sold to the above findings, e.g.: – Indoor footballs were the least sold because of unavailability of facilities and high cost)

A new brand, a new market, unknown customers, unknown facilities and competitors, I was experiencing everything and anything which an MBA would want to experience, to learn and to develop as a professional. But, the real picture wasn’t so beautiful. I wasn’t working in an Air-conditioned office; I was working in a 40+ degrees Mumbai climate, with no secondary data, with no leads to retailers and competitors, no information about the suppliers.

But, somehow I managed to approach 50 plus schools and 20 plus sports retailers in a span of 2 months to get all the required information.

One of the toughest tasks was to extract business information from competitors. I was in Mumbai, a place which teaches you business, teaches you how to shield your business secrets and which teaches you nothing comes free of cost and so in the name of market research I was kicked out of many stores. I obviously couldn’t use Decathlon’s name and so the only trick I could pull out was: – acting as a bulk buyer, I generated huge purchase list and tried to negotiate and found out the product and price range of many competing retailers.

At Decathlon, I realized that the true picture of working in sales as an MBA is far from what we see in overrated movies or TV series. I realized, that just out of college one doesn’t get into strategic roles and that one has to understand the basics of any business to rise and to reach at the top management level. One needs to be open to learning and no matter from where you are, it’s important to understand and work at the grass root level.

Decathlon aims at providing sporting facilities to all, this is not just a theory for them and to prove this they have sporting facilities in their large showroom itself. One of the most enjoyable parts of working was playing sports like basketball and TT with walk-in customers, teaching wave/skate boarding and skating to youngsters.


Naman Kanotra is a Management Student at TAPMI Manipal. ...