The ball is in Li-Ning’s court
March 26, 2012

Becoming the first Chinese sports apparel brand to vault into India, Li-Ning has signed an agreement with Sunlight Sports, Singapore, and Indo Rubber and Plastic Works (Indo Rubber) India to retail sports rackets, footwear, luggage, apparel, and accessories to what it considers one of its most promising markets.

Speaking on the occasion, Ram Malhotra, Business Head, Li-Ning India, said: “The Indian market is ready for Li-Ning. We believe the strength of the brand lies in its unshakable desire to provide high-quality, innovative sports equipment, apparel, and footwear, which will now be available to consumers across the country. We want the Indian market to view the brand wholly, which promotes the growth of such sports as badminton in India. The brand’s power coupled with Indo Rubber’s extensive distribution network will be integral to achieving this in the country.”

Li-Ning, a household sports apparel and accessories company in China, plans on marketing and retailing mainly their badminton products in India. The announcement coming just a few days after Saina Nehwal, India’s top badminton player defeated China’s Wang Shixian, ranked number three in the world, and Liu Xin in Basel last week, adds further impetus to Li-Ning’s claim that badminton has a solid future in India.

India isn’t a sporting nation. The country lacks basic facilities, medical treatment for players and doesn’t worship any sport except cricket. Of late though, private sporting goods companies are volleying their way into the prosperous Indian market space. In 2010, NBA hoped to popularize basketball in the 1.1 billion nation, just as they brought about a sporting revolution in China a decade ago with Yao Ming. To get their act into gear, Orlando Magic sent Dwight Howard their star player to India to set up basketball training facilities, enthuse young basketball afincados and make basketball the second-most popular sport in India behind cricket. More than a year later and few have taken to hoops.

Nonetheless, the trend also shows the growing confidence Chinese companies have in the Indian consumer. Besides technology, power and electric equipment, Chinese companies are diversifying their exports to the Indian sub continent. From Auto majors FAW, SAIC, Foton and Chery paving their way into India, to consumer brands, Chinese companies are exploring beyond their captive domestic market.

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