• Linkdin

Interview with Munish Avasthi

Munish Avasthi
Munish Avasthi
Managing Director

We are strategically investing in growth for the future
Founded in 1977, Sportking is a family-owned clothing brand that seamlessly integrates the entire production process, from yarn to finished garments, ensuring the highest quality and craftsmanship. Now managed by the 2nd and 3rd generations of the founding family, Sportking has earned a trusted reputation in the northern region, particularly Kashmir, Punjab, and Chandigarh. With plans to expand further into North India, Sportking continues to innovate in product design and retail, solidifying its position as a leading name in the regional clothing industry. Managing Director Munish Avasthi speaks to Fibre2Fashion about the company’s strategies and vision.

In your opinion, what are the latest trends in sustainability within the textile and apparel industry, and how are companies adapting to these trends to meet consumer demand for eco-friendly products?

Consumers are increasingly demanding eco-friendly clothing, and the textile industry is recognising this shift. The traditional fast-fashion model, focused on cheap, disposable clothing, is no longer sustainable. Companies are adapting by exploring various avenues. Biodegradable materials like hemp and bamboo are gaining traction, offering a more natural alternative to synthetic fabrics. Additionally, there is a growing focus on sustainable dyes and water-saving processes to minimise environmental impact. Recycling and upcycling existing textiles are also becoming prominent trends. By embracing these innovations and prioritising eco-conscious practices, the industry can meet consumer demand for sustainable fashion while minimising its environmental footprint.

Can you elaborate on Sportking’s long-term vision and the strategic initiatives you are currently focusing on to achieve this vision?

At Sportking, we are driven by a vision to become the leading one stop destination in India. We see a future with a robust network of 300 stores spreading across the nation, offering unparalleled selection and service. To achieve this ambitious goal, we are taking a two-pronged approach. Firstly, we are strategically expanding our offline presence by opening new retail stores across India. This will allow us to better serve our existing customer base and reach new ones in previously untapped markets. Secondly, we are embracing the digital revolution by launching a comprehensive e-commerce website. This online platform will provide a convenient and seamless shopping experience for customers nationwide, further solidifying our position. We also recognise the power of influencer marketing in today’s digital age. We are moving away from traditional marketing methods and strategically partnering with influential figures to reach a wider audience and build brand loyalty through authentic connections. By combining an aggressive offline expansion with a cutting-edge online presence and strategic influencer marketing, Sportking is poised to achieve its long-term vision and become the go-to destination for all clothing choices in India.

Could you provide insights into Sportking’s recent financial performance and the key factors driving growth?

Sportking is on a strategic growth trajectory, and we are strategically investing in growth for the future. We have been expanding our physical presence by adding new stores. We own 40 of the 80 stores we currently have. This expansion, along with our focus on value-added features on our clothing lines, positions us for significant future gains. The initial expenditure on new stores is a calculated move, and we expect to see a positive return on investment as we establish ourselves in these new markets.

How does your company differentiate itself in the highly competitive textile and apparel market both domestically and internationally?

In a crowded market, Sportking stands out with a powerful combination of quality and loyalty. Our 27-year heritage speaks volumes about our commitment to providing top-notch apparel. We cater to a wide range of verticals, ensuring every person finds what they need. While others struggle with fluctuating prices, Sportking excels at supply chain retention, allowing us to offer competitive pricing without compromising on quality. This focus on value and deep understanding of our customers’ needs is what truly sets Sportking apart.

What do you perceive as the biggest challenges and opportunities for your brand in the coming years, and how do you plan to navigate them?

Sportking faces a growing competitive landscape, but we view these rivals as stepping stones, pushing us to constantly improve and offer higher quality fabrics and innovative designs in our activewear. This competitive environment also presents significant opportunities. Our 27-year heritage and established brand recognition give us a substantial advantage in the burgeoning e-commerce space. By leveraging our online platform alongside our physical stores, we can reach a wider audience and solidify our position as a leading force in the Indian goods market. By focusing on quality, innovation, and omnichannel accessibility, we are confident that Sportking can navigate these challenges and seize the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

How are shifts in consumer preferences, such as the growing demand for fast fashion versus sustainable fashion, influencing your strategies in the textile and apparel industry?

The global fashion landscape is grappling with conflicting consumer preferences. While the demand for sustainable fashion is undeniably strong, particularly in Europe, the picture in India is more nuanced. Here, fast fashion’s grip remains tight. We understand that a significant portion of the Indian market, especially outside the top 5 per cent most aware consumers, prioritises affordability. Their purchasing power often dictates a focus on value for money. At Sportking, we recognise this reality. We believe in offering high-quality fabrics at competitive price points. In addition, in terms of sustainability, we are taking small but important steps like exploring eco-friendly materials and implementing water-saving practices. Our long-term goal is to find the perfect balance between affordability and sustainability, catering to the evolving needs of the Indian market while minimising our environmental impact.

What specific measures are being implemented to ensure sustainable and eco-friendly manufacturing processes?

Sportking is committed to offering competitive prices while taking initial steps towards a more sustainable future. We recognise there is room for improvement, and we are actively exploring options like incorporating organic cotton into our product lines. Additionally, we are implementing the use of reusable bags in our stores to reduce our environmental footprint. Going green is a journey, and Sportking is taking the first steps to ensure a more sustainable future for our planet.

How does your company approach product innovation, and can you share any recent examples of innovative products or technologies introduced?

At Sportking, we are constantly striving to stay ahead of the curve in product innovation. We leverage a creative process that incorporates mood boards and trend analysis to ensure our products are fashionable and functional. Our team regularly attends industry events and travels internationally. This exposure to global trends allows us to experiment with different materials and machinery, resulting in the introduction of 2 to 3 new fabric blends every year. For instance, by combining cutting-edge design with technical innovation, Sportking is committed to developing products that meet the ever-evolving needs of our customers.

How are advancements in technology, such as automation and AI, transforming the textile manufacturing process and the overall supply chain at your company?

The textile industry is on the cusp of a major transformation driven by advancements like automation and AI. While AI is not yet directly involved in manufacturing at Sportking, we see its potential in sales and production forecasting, and retail personalisation. However, our focus is on leveraging these technologies to revolutionise the supply chain. Imagine a future where AI analyses real-time data on our 600-plus stores, predicting trends and optimising inventory levels to minimise waste and ensure we always have the right products in the right places. This is the future Sportking is building. By integrating AI and automation into the supply chain, we can streamline operations, reduce costs, and ultimately deliver a better experience for our customers.

In what ways are you leveraging digital technologies to enhance operations, customer experience, and overall business efficiency?

At Sportking, we are embracing digital technology to transform every aspect of our business. We utilise Google My Business to ensure our stores are easily discoverable by customers online. We are also piloting AI-powered tools to personalise product recommendations and enhance the authenticity of our online presence. This, combined with our commitment to in-house software development for staff training and operations management, is improving efficiency and creating a seamless customer experience across all touchpoints.

How has the supply chain been adapted to manage disruptions, such as those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and what strategies are in place to enhance supply chain resilience?

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique challenge, as many factories were not operational. However, at Sportking, our focus on supply chain retention proved to be a saving grace. Because we excel at maintaining strong relationships with our suppliers, disruptions were minimal. Additionally, we strategically invested in a new warehouse to streamline dispatch processes and ensure we could continue fulfilling orders efficiently. This focus on in-house control and supplier relationships allowed Sportking to weather the storm and emerge even stronger. We are constantly evaluating our supply chain for vulnerabilities and implementing strategies to build resilience for any future disruptions.

What impact do global trade policies and tariffs have on your operations in the textile and apparel industry, and how are these challenges navigated to maintain a competitive advantage?

Global trade policies and tariffs can definitely throw a curveball at the textile and apparel industry. Since our supply chains often involve materials or processes outside our borders, fluctuating tariffs can cause price spikes for raw materials. This can squeeze our margins or force us to raise prices, impacting our competitiveness. At Sportking, we navigate these challenges by focusing on value-added products. We are constantly innovating and incorporating features that elevate our clothing lines beyond basic functionality. This allows us to command a premium price point, even if raw material costs fluctuate. We are also diversifying our sourcing to reduce our reliance on any single region, making us more adaptable to trade policy shifts. By focusing on value and building a strong brand reputation, Sportking can maintain a competitive edge despite the ever-changing global trade landscape.

What are the current challenges related to workforce management in the textile and apparel industry, and how are issues such as labour shortages, skill gaps, and worker safety being addressed?

The textile industry is grappling with a few tough workforce management issues. Finding enough qualified workers is a constant battle, and the industry is not always seen as the most attractive career choice. At Sportking, we are tackling these challenges head-on. We strive to create a work environment that is positive and fosters growth. We offer competitive wages and benefits, and worker safety is paramount. To bridge the skill gap, we invest in training programmes that equip our employees with the knowledge and expertise to handle the latest advancements. Ultimately, our goal is to make Sportking a top workplace in the textile industry, where people feel valued, have opportunities to develop, and can contribute to our success.

What are your strategies for attracting, developing, and retaining talent within the organisation, especially in the rapidly evolving textile industry?

At Sportking, our family-run culture gives us a unique advantage in attracting and retaining top talent. We believe in fostering close relationships with our employees, allowing for open communication and a supportive work environment. To keep our team engaged, we organise fun activities for special occasions and celebrate milestones together. We also recognise the importance of financial well-being. By offering free housing, transportation, and subsidised meals, we help alleviate some of the daily burdens for our employees. This allows them to focus on their work and growth within the company. Moreover, in the dynamic world of textiles, we understand the need for continuous learning. We invest in training programmes that keep our employees updated on the latest industry trends and technologies. This commitment to their development not only benefits the company but empowers them to build successful careers within Sportking.

Can you highlight some of the key corporate social responsibility initiatives that your company is involved in and their impact on the community?

Sportking is deeply committed to giving back to the communities we serve. We allocate a significant budget to our CSR activities, focusing on initiatives that create a lasting impact. Recently, we hosted a successful Cancer Prevention Marathon, raising awareness and vital funds for this important cause. Additionally, we have partnered with hospitals to supply essential machinery, improving access to quality healthcare. Women’s empowerment is another key focus, and we have implemented various programmes that promote education, skill development, and economic opportunities for women in our communities. By going beyond business and embracing social responsibility, Sportking strives to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us.
Interviewer: Shilpi Panjabi
Published on: 02/07/2024

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.