The journey of this football fan started from a tardy buying experience of football club merchandise and landed him into the entrepreneurial sector where he has introduced a platform to make football club merchandise a hassle-free purchase.
Aashay Shah teamed up with his brother Rushang Shah and launched Goalsquad.com. “The football merchandise available in the market is of inferior quality. If one plans to buy from international websites, the products are grossly expensive and the delivery also consumes a lot of time,” said Aashay Shah, Founder and CEO, Goalsquad.com.
After such hassled experience with international websites, the brothers decided to launch Goalsquad.com. The website, launched in January 2014, exclusively deals in official fan merchandise and equipment with an aim to offer one-stop solution to all football lovers. Goalsquad.com sells official merchandise for all leading European clubs, including Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
“The sports merchandise market in India is pegged around Rs 5,000 crore. There is a huge demand of sports merchandise in the country. However, the market has failed to meet the demand; replaced and fulfilled by counterfeit merchandise in the market. This portal is a step towards providing imported products to the buyers and giving them the taste of the original,” said Shah.
The website imports the merchandise from licensed manufacturers of Spain and UK. It also buys products from Indian manufacturers, licensed in posters and calendar manufacturing. Besides football club merchandise, the website has started selling NBA (basket ball) merchandise. It also plans to expand to other sport like Formula 1, which will be available in the inventory soon. Their inventory also covers accessories, sports, personal and household items like football, clothing, cushions, caps, car accessories, clocks and soft toys etc.
“In the last one year, we fulfilled around 5000 orders from our portal. However, our products are also available on other e-commerce portals and we have received a good response there as well,” said Shah. The venture claims to grow around 20 percent per quarter.
The duo invested around Rs 1 crore from savings to kick-start the venture. The funds have been invested in building infrastructure, hiring and training staff, purchasing inventory, and technology.
It is looking for investors and has been in talk with some. “We are still in the early stages of talk with investors and can’t divulge much information. We are, however, positive about it,” said Shah.
When asked about the sustenance of business in the absence of investors, he said the venture is sustaining the business through sales and using various marketing strategies to boost it. “If funded, the growth would have been faster. We could invest it on marketing the websites and take some more challenging job like taking up the license and starting the manufacturing in the country.”
The challenges include marketing the website and bringing visibility. The other important challenge is to stand in the market rife with counterfeit products. However, they have the same price point as those counterfeit products available in certain items like alarm clock, key chain, posters and calendars. The licensed manufacturers are also taking action against sellers of such fake products, especially against websites.
Other challenges include supply chain and logistics as we are dependent on third party providers. “Initially, it was difficult to manage the supply chain and gaining the confidence and trust of suppliers took time. But one year in the business, and things have improved." Purchase of substantial quantities of merchandise has helped us gain suppliers' trust,” said Shah.
Goalsquad.com claims to be the only online seller of football club and NBA merchandise in India. “In the online segment, there is no competitor of Goalsquad.com. However, there are a few brick and mortar licensed stores selling Manchester United club merchandise in the country. These stores are not our competitors as they belong to a different segment (offline) and lack in varieties of products,” Said Shah.
The website aims to procure license for the manufacturing of such products. However, it is still grading and trying to find out some of the most desired products amidst the buyers. “We want to wait for a year. We are trying options of funding. If we get it, we will surely want to start manufacturing in the country. Otherwise, we will continue with the present business idea: import and sale of products.”
Goalsquad.com banks on variety, originality and exclusivity of the products it sells. “We consider these qualities as our USP which no other offline or online stores provide. We also believe this exclusivity of our brand has brought us here and that in a very small span of time,” said Aashay.