A French brand that won over the Indian heart, even got it to scale mountains, literally

Decathlon has created a category in India the long, hard way and not by resorting to discounts


Paisa vasool!

It’s a cry of triumph we hear in street markets and, believe it or not, in high-end boutiques, especially when the buyer has managed to wrest an elaborate customisation. Value buy is irresistible to us Indians. We aren’t looking to buy anything cheap, really, but are just trying to get our money’s worth, and are willing to go long, long distances for that.

Decathlon’s success is proof. The sports goods brand has had people go to dead malls in the outskirts just to try out running shoes, and gawp at rock climbers’ ice axe and karabiners. Industry watchers say we aren’t even a sporting country!

In 2009, when the company launched its first store in the country, it was viewed as yet another expensive, international name. Almost a decade later, it has cemented its place as one of the leaders in sports goods retail followed by international brands like Adidas and Puma. The French brand has created a retail category of all-things-sports under one roof in India. In FY20, Decathlon India reported a total income of Rs. 22.31 billion, an increase of 75% from Rs. 12.78 billion in FY18.

So, how did the French company do this? Cracking the value buy formula isn’t easy, and it did more than pricing its products right.

Breaking trail

While Decathlon had been manufacturing in India since the ‘90s, it began its retail journey in the country only in 2009 with its first cash-and-carry store in Sarjapur, Bengaluru. In 2013, it opened its store to all its customers after becoming one of the first sports retail companies to win government approval for 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in single-brand retail.

India is a tough market. Despite the country’s obsession with cricket, the sports retail segment is rather


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