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Goalsquad.com aims to score big; targets Indian fans with sports merchandise

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MUMBAI:  Last year saw the popularity of Indian football reaching new heights thanks to the advent of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL). While there has always been a moderate fan following for the game in India, it is largely towards the European Clubs.  

Trying to cater to this segment for various official and authentic club merchandises is a new entrant in the e-commerce shopping space- goalquad.com.

The venture was started by two Mumbai based brothers, Aashay and Rushang Shah out of their own financial capacity. The Shah brothers have been a part of their family business in real estate and hospitality for the past ten years. Their main aim was to offer Indian fans with official merchandise on a single hassle free platform. 

Speaking to Indiantelevision.com, Aashay Shah says that the idea for this concept began in mid 2013 and by the time the duo got in touch with all the clubs and license manufactures, it took about seven months for the supply chain to commence.

?It also took us time to convince the clubs that we were serious about our business and would want to buy in bulk the various category of products,? says Shah.

The first of its kind website in the country was born in January 2014.

Initially the clubs were hesitant and discussed with the Shahs their business initiatives and investment plans including their other business segments. The particular business strategy to be followed was to purchase quantities in bulk orders so that the cost benefit was passed on to consumers. 

?Football websites like Manchester United do sell products online but when a single product is bought and the duty and shipping costs are added, the price increases five to six times the cost of the product,? explains Shah.

The idea was born when the brothers sighted a gap to sell official football merchandise in the e-commerce category, which was picking up and decided to venture in the territory where products sell better than in physical stores. 

The venture has seen an investment close to Rs 1 crore and much of the sale money gained is invested back into marketing and buying of the inventory. Shah says that over the next three years there would be a total investment of Rs 1.5 to Rs 2 crore. He also hopes to break even towards the end of 2016 or by 2017.

While counterfeit products largely remain a worry, Shah is undeterred as he pins hope at cracking at least 20 per cent of the entire market gamut. Mentioning a Star Sports report released three years back he says that there was around 80-90 million football viewership in the country. Shah intends to target 20 per cent of this market, which would be a substantial number of 15 - 20 million. He feels this number has increased now because of a growing population as well as popularity of the game soaring in India. 

The website has merchandise from Clubs such as Chelsea F.C, Manchester United F.C , Arsenal F.C, Liverpool F.C among others. The venture also recently introduced its NBA line of merchandise and has also got Mumbai City F.C of the ISL on board. 

The various products include glassware, football, stationary, key chains, badges, flags and clothing among others. The price range begins from below Rs 500 and stretches upwards of Rs 2,500 depending on the products. The brothers are now in touch with the various ISL teams to get their merchandise on board, whose cult following is yet to begin.

For Shah, the ISL, its grassroots programme and the few star players have been positive triggers for the growth of the game in the country. While the website is targeted at the age group between 14 and 45, it has also noticed traction from female buyers who largely purchase products for their male counterparts. ?I see a lot of school going girls buying Barcelona merchandises because of their star quality players. Messi and Neymar products are huge sellers for them,? says Shah.

A key challenge for the firm remains the heavy custom duties, which are the standard 30 per cent, besides the Octroi tax in Maharashtra.

For now, close to 10,000 to 15,000 unique visitors log onto the website in a month. As part of its marketing campaign, it has tied up to sponsor various community based events such as that of a youth league it recently sponsored in New Delhi.

On social media, the website is trying to build virtual communities where football news and videos are shared on its pages. On twitter it runs a football fantasy league, which is linked to the official Barclays Premier League. As part of the contest a prize is handed every month to the manager of the month which has around 250 players. Shah looks at spending between Rs 15- Rs 20 lakh on the marketing for this year alone.

The total team strength is around 10 including a social media marketer, a purchase and account manager, a customer care executive besides three people in despatch.

As part of the expansion plans, the website will soon launch their own app, which will allow customers to easily browse through products besides providing football news, highlights and score update. It also plans to expand to cricket and tennis products and in the near future, thus becoming a full-fledged fan merchandise store selling only authentic and official merchandise.

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