A Look at Sports365, Mahesh Bhupathi’s foray into Ecommerce Venture

Sports365 is an ecommerce venture that wants to be ”the first port of call for sports and fitness related needs” for individuals and institutions. The startup has bagged its first medal with Mahesh Bhupathi joining the company as an investor and importantly, will be driving the marketing effort at Sports365.sports365

The Bangalore based startup etails sports and fitness products (right from yoga mats to swimming gears, footwear, golf products etc) and has a hybrid business model (retail as well as B2B).

Given that the sports category hasn’t yet seen a lot of players (prominent ones being PlayGroundOnline, eSportsBuy which was acquired by Snapdeal and has been shutdown), there is definitely an opportunity for PAN India play. And importantly, grabbing a brand ambassador/marketing head like Mahesh Bhupathi is probably the best GTM (go to market) strategy that will also help the startup penetrate deeper in this category.

The startup also has B2B clients like Accenture, Intel, Standard Chartered and ofcourse, Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academies.

Here is an interview with Sports365 founding team on the business model and future plans.

1. What business are you in? What’s your revenue model?

Born out of passion for sports, Sports365’s vision is “to be the first port of call for sports and fitness related needs” for individuals and institutions.

Being the category specialist, we offer great quality of sports and fitness equipment to consumers with expert guidance.

Mahesh Bhupathi, Vishal Gupta and Chandra Sekhar Reddy bring together the right mix of skills and experience to successfully make sports and fitness equipment available to everyone in India.

For seasoned players, we bring them the best brands right to their doorstep. For those who love to play, we make equipment accessible. For those who are yet to experience the highs and lows of sports, we introduce them to the wondrous diversity of sports and fitness, through our institutions engagement programs. A simple idea with a large vision to foster the spirit.

Revenue :  Sports365 has two revenue streams – B2C, the e-commerce store and B2B, institutional sales and services. B2B business is already generating cash and strategically complements the online business on sourcing and aggregated user base outreach (“Read offline marketing”). The e-commerce portal www.sports365.in was launched last month and is seeing steady increase on visitors and transactions.sports365

2. Most of sports product oriented ecommerce stores haven’t really taken off (in a BIG way). Why do you stand a chance?

Sports365 is positioned as “Sports and Fitness” specialist where in e-commerce is one of the revenue streams. To be a category specialist, a business needs to find a bigger purpose than transactional routine. Sports365 is connecting with Sports and Fitness enthusiasts at a grass root level and fosters the spirit through active participation on the ground. Be it through events, sponsorship or scholarship programs.

On top of that we see strong differentiation as compared to other players in this specific category :

– Well, when it comes to sports e-commerce industry, there are no big players at this point. There are horizontal e-commerce players’ of course, who offer electronics, fashion, lifestyle sports, nutrition all under one roof.

– But specifically talking about this vertical “Sports and Fitness”, there are no big players yet. There are few Bangalore based companies who are into sports e-commerce, while one from Delhi was recently acquired by a Deal e-com company.

For the thought leadership we have taken, we clearly differentiate ourselves from the crowd

Our USPs :

a) “Expert Connect” – We help sports and fitness enthusiasts make informed choice to buy through expert guidance. Be it through detailed descriptions, buying guides, interactive chat on our online platforms or consultative selling at various institutes while they set up sports/fitness infrastructure and equipment.

b) “Hybrid Business Model” – We are a specialist in this category with e-commerce and institutional engagement model. In Sports and Fitness category, we know for a fact that it is very important to connect with communities and aggregated user base at various academies, schools/colleges, corporate, fitness centers etc. Do not see any other player thinking or doing this.

c) “Team’s DNA” – this one is the biggest entry barrier for competition. We are a team of highly qualified people, players & athletes. Sports/fitness is more than passion, a part of life for the whole team and reflects when we deal with customers. An example, our sales guys visiting a school for a sales call end up doing few knocks at the badminton court/TT table and advising kids.

Stars align to form a team like this. It’s possible to replicate product/services USPs, but tough to do that with Team’s DNA and culture.

3. What is Mahesh Bhupathi’s role?

Apart from being a world-class sportsperson, Mahesh has been a successful entrepreneur. With his 17 years of professional sporting career and business acumen, all sports enthusiasts have a lot to learn and gain.

Mahesh is an active member on board and drives our marketing initiatives, Experts connect, brands relations etc.

Some more info on our team :

Vishal Gupta is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Sports 365. Vishal is a seasoned professional and entrepreneur, with productive stints in reputed organizations like Larsen &Toubro, Sasken and Telsima. He has also promoted successful start-ups such as Sloka Technologies and Maverick Wireless in the past. Vishal’s experience pans across technology, corporate strategy, business development and institutional sales. Vishal holds a Masters in Software Systems from the prestigious Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) in Pilani and Engineering degree from IETE. Vishal is a fitness freak and an avid Badminton player

Chandra Shekhar Reddy is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Sports 365. Sekhar has formerly worked as a Vice President at United Telecoms Limited, Senior Associate at McKinsey and Co. and a Senior Finance Analyst at P&G and brings rich experience in the areas of corporate strategy, revenue maximization, operations’ transformation, New Business Development, M&A etc. Sekhar completed his Post Graduation in Management with specialization in Finance, Marketing and Operations from the esteemed Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Lucknow and Engineering degree from NIT. He captained his University Tennis Team and passionately follows most of the sports around the world.

Biggest challenge for any startup remains to get the right team in place and align vision. We have built a leadership team from pedigreed institutes and experts in their respective fields. They have all held jobs in various technical and management positions, and are here for only one reason – to work on their passion, which is Sports. Every member on the team is an athlete and loves to play. Introducing few colleagues,

Aashutosh: – Post Graduate in Management from IIM Lucknow, Engineering degree from Nirma Institute. Aashu leads the Marketing and Analytics functions. He has worked with reputed companies like P&G, KPMG and UTL. Star Cricket player.

Vinay:- MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur. Vinay leads the institutional sales vertical of business and has lead sales at hospitality and sports/fitness brands in India. Plays Volley ball and swims.

Dheeraj :- MBA from ISB, Hyderbad, Engineering degree from RV college Bangalore. Dheeraj leads the effort on Product management, Usability and business development. Dheeraj lead product management and marketing functions at Thoughtworks Inc. Plays Basket ball and Badminton.

Moy :- Engineering graduate from PESIT with rich Operations experience. He leads fulfillment and logistics functions. He has represented his school team at national tennis tournaments and an avid football player.

Sanam :- MBA in Marketing and Advertising from University of Leeds, Business School UK. She leads Social Media and Digital marketing functions. Plays Badminton.

4. Future plans?

5 years from now, we will take the leadership position in India, on our e-commerce business. We plan to take majority market share in this space. We are already live and deliver PAN India through this channel. We will continue to bring more exclusive brands and assortment to consumer’s doorstep and build a rich offering and knowledge base for our addressable market.

Our institutional engagement would continue to grow through channel partners and we will expand PAN India on that too. We would have presence in all regions, which will help us understand the evolving needs of our consumers on products, services and information.

Most of us as in the team had been engaged with promoting and sponsoring sports/sports persons, in individual capacity. Now it’s tied to purpose of our business and we would reinvest in the sports/fitness community to foster the spirit. India will see Sports365’s presence on various other occasions other than selling products and services. We deserve more medals and wins ?.

An interesting venture – Sports365 has started with the right pitch and given the opportunity at hand, there certainly is a need to define a business model in this space. What’s your take on this category? Is the category big enough for a sustainable ecommerce play?

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