Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

We are an independent brand with heritage, not a heritage brand: Radeshwer Davar of New Balance

With its first direct foray into India, the US-based sportswear company is looking to cash in on the growing athleisure market in the country

Kathakali Chanda
Published: May 10, 2024 10:22:33 AM IST
Updated: May 10, 2024 12:06:57 PM IST

We are an independent brand with heritage, not a heritage brand: Radeshwer Davar of New BalanceRadeshwer Davar, Country Manager, India, New Balance.

US sportswear brand New Balance has made its first direct foray into India, opening three own stores in four months. The Boston-headquartered company, which has been operating through retail and distribution partners since 2016, set up its India subsidiary in 2022, and operationalised it recently, starting with its first Indian store in Hyderabad in February and following it up with another in Pune in March. On May 4, New Balance, which posted revenues of $6.5 billion in 2023, opened its first outlet in Mumbai, on Linking Road, and is expected to launch another in the city shortly. Country Manager Radeshwer Davar spoke to Forbes India about the company’s plans for India. Edited excerpts:

Q. New Balance has finally made a direct entry into India, opening three stores in four months. Why now?
Over the last few years, New Balance has had a phenomenal growth trajectory globally, and that’s prompted us to launch the India subsidiary. Over the past decade, the sports and athleisure market in India has really evolved and we understand its potential. As a subsidiary, we have focussed on building a robust ecosystem of regional partners with whom we can launch exclusive brand stores pan-India. We are also working directly with select ecommerce partners to reach out to the geographically-spread customer base. Over time, we will also expand in a selective manner with own stores in key cities. The setting up of our subsidiary in India allows the brand to control its destiny in the market.

We currently have 14 points of sale, and we don’t have any numbers in terms of target—whichever locations we get in terms of size, catchment etc, we can go ahead and open stores.

Q. New Balance has been in India for nine years now, operating through retail and distribution partners. What are the key trends that you’ve noticed in the sportswear market through these years?
This is the first time we are entering India directly, and it’s because of the potential we see. Over the past decade, India's sportswear market has evolved with a surge in demand for sports and athleisure wear, blending performance, style and functionality. Urbanisation, rising incomes, and health consciousness have driven this shift, while ecommerce has widened access. The market is now dynamic, diverse, and increasingly consumer-centric.

Q. Within India, which are your top-performing markets?
In the previous years, when we were operating with our partners, North India was our predominant market. Which is why now that we have entered as a subsidiary, we are looking to go pan-India, focusing on expanding our footprint in key cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata. By strategically targeting these cities, we want to tap into diverse consumer segments, capitalise on regional preferences and establish ourselves as a leading sportswear brand in India.

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Q. The sportswear market in India is highly competitive. What's your plan to take on competition?
There is significant momentum on the brand and there has never been a better time to enter emerging markets such as India. New Balance continues to innovate and deliver exciting running and lifestyle product and stories as well have a young, dynamic roster of ambassadors and artists that are resonating with the global independents like never before. Our plan is to celebrate the fact we are an independent brand with a heritage, and not a heritage brand. The intersection of sport and culture is key for us as we continue to scale in India.

Q. The Indian consumer is price sensitive, and the Indian sportswear market seems to be moving from premiumisation to casualisation. As a brand that has been positioned in the premium segment, what's New Balance's pricing strategy to tackle these trends?
While the Indian sportswear market may be moving towards casualisation and price-sensitivity, New Balance remains committed to delivering elevated quality and performance. Our pricing strategy reflects our dedication to craftsmanship and innovation, offering consumers value for their investment. While we recognise the importance of affordability, we believe consumers are willing to pay a premium for quality and authenticity. At the same time, we are mindful of the market dynamics and strive to strike a balance between premiumisation and affordability, ensuring that our products remain accessible to a wide range of consumers. We have locally sourced footwear within India and this will be a key project we expand to ensure we can enable consumers to have the choice around price points while delivering premium product and service.

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Q. What are the top markets for New Balance globally and where does India feature in the scheme of things?
About a third of our sales are from the United States. India is a key market with a lot of potential to grow and the launch of the subsidiary is a recognition of this opportunity.