Catch ‘em Young
Sporting goods retailer Decathlon SA has teamed up Jungle Crows Foundation of Kolkata to empower the disadvantaged youth using rugby

The mission is to reach out to sporting communities, specially the young underprivileged sports lovers, whatever sports it may be. And the mantra is to ‘catch ‘em young’. With this is view, Decathlon SA, the world’s largest sporting goods retailer with over 1400 outlets across 48 countries, has teamed up Jungle Crows Foundation, the Kolkata-based organisation, which has been using rugby to empower youth from disadvantaged communities, and Terra Indica Trust, that has been working towards ensuring a safe and nurturing environment for all young adults to feel secure, providing them with free housing, good food, a study room, a play ground, a gym and computers. This coincided with the opening up of the French sporting goods retailer’s second outlet in West Bengal.

The move, which certainly is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility initiative, also reflects the brand philosophy in the truest perspectives, top company officials said.

“Working with Terra Indica and Decathlon we hope to create an innovative project that would bring young students from underprivileged backgrounds into the store, delivers training and development while supporting their ongoing education. They will be our future Decathlete, ready to share their skills and passion to take the sport to even larger number of people. The Jungle Crows have a passion for their sport of rugby and we have been delighted to together share rugby sessions across the city as part of their ‘khelo Rugby’ programme. Sport makes a difference in our lives and sharing passion makes the impact even greater,” said Paul Walsh, a former diplomat-turned-founder of Jungle Crows Foundation.

Quite significantly, the French company has lined up plans to take in a significant percentage of these Decathletes and engage them at various outlets. With the company being on an expansion mode, the number of such recruits will also go up, said Suresh Ravichandran, Decathlon City Leader, Kolkata. Decathlon, at present, has 69 outlets in more than 36 Indian cities including tier-II and tier-III cities, offering 50 sports and 5000 sports products under one roof.

Going by a recent Euromonitor study, the Indian sportswear market, alone is expected to grow at 34 per cent CAGR by 2020 and the overall sales is expected to reach $8 billion. Decathlon is keen on tapping this fast growing market.

Besides, Ravichandran said that running, cycling and team sports are amongst India’s fastest trending exercises. And the number of gyms in the country is projected to rise 7 per cent year-on-year till 2020. The rise of social media in the country has shifted consumer perception of what is now considered to be ‘body-beautiful’. An increasingly larger number of people – both female and male – are emulating the daily fitness routines and sportswear purchases of Bollywood stars and famous athletes, pushing up the market further. Interestingly, the French sports company Decathlon, the world’s largest sporting goods manufacturer and retailer, happened to be the first multinational (MNC) entrant into the sports retail market in India.

Not just through associations with various outside organizations that the company is trying to reach out to sports lovers, all the outlets of Decathlon offers a small playground and a platform for users to find a facility nearby or events to practice the sport of their choice, also equipping them with competitively priced, innovative, technically sound, durable and comfortable products. The outlets also feature a dedicated meet-up area for like-minded sports enthusiasts to connect over workshops, classes and events focusing on sports, health and nutrition and activities like meditation and yoga. Interestingly, Decathlon’s own team is a group of sports enthusiasts who believe in sharing their passion for sports and also want everyone to experience the benefits of sports and that is reflected throughout the outlet.

“This is because our brand positioning is simple and clear. Decathlon is not an outlet for sportsmen. It’s for common people who love sports and sporting and adventure activities,” said Ravichandran.

Ritwik Mukherjee