How this Delhi-based company makes customised sports mats for Asian Games, Khelo India and other tournaments
When Emergency was declared in India in June 1975, Kaushal Kishore, who hailed from Etah, a small district in Uttar Pradesh, packed his bags and moved to the national capital, New Delhi, with big dreams and a fervent determination to succeed in life.
Between 1975 and 80’, Kaushal managed to settle down in Delhi doing odd jobs and moving across industries, an exposure that proved very useful later. In 1980, Kaushal noticed that the sports industry was booming; and having dabbled in the rubber industry during his initial years in the capital, he knew how extensively rubber was utilised in sports equipment.
Using this knowledge, Kaushal and his son Ashok started a small manufacturing unit producing rubber tennis balls. As the industry was at a nascent stage, the duo found themselves welcomed!
“My grandfather belonged to a family of farmers. Although there was no financial liability on him, he wanted to do something of his own in a big city,” says Kaushal’s grandson and third-generation entrepreneur, Vaibhav Somani, in an interaction with SMBStory.
Fast forward 40 years, the business has grown to make a mark in sports equipment, footwear, and automobiles, to their latest and the youngest venture, the brand Gravolite. A name synonymous with sports mats.
The making of Gravolite
Gravolite came into existence in 2009, formed by Kaushal’s younger son, the late Arun Kumar Somani who had also joined the family business in the 90s. In the 80s, Kaushal and his sons worked hard on scaling their OEM enterprise as a third-party manufacturer for leading brands, including Stag International - one of India’s renowned sports brands.
Initially producing rubber tennis balls, the company later diversified into manufacturing rubbers for tennis rackets, footwear, and sports mats.
Vaibhav says that the company grew and expanded according to the market demand. “In 2000, we started manufacturing Taekwondo and Karate mats whereas between 2004-2005, we diversified into making kabaddi mats. Every sports mat possesses different properties, and so we kept meeting the demand accordingly.”
When the brand Gravolite was formed, it became a separate brand under the umbrella company to focus on sports floorings. “For any sport to be played at the international level, be it Commonwealth Games, Asian Games or Olympics, safety protocols need to be of the highest standards, and safe flooring is extremely vital to prevent injuries. We started by developing world-class wrestling mats and since then, there was no looking back,” Vaibhav explains.
From wrestling mats, Gravolite diversified into making mats for India’s traditional sports, kabaddi and kho-kho, and recently started making yoga mats as well.
Gravolite's Gymnastic mat and Kho Kho mat
In its sports flooring business, Vaibhav says Gravolite makes a turnover of Rs 15 crore annually.
Seizing the sports market
Gravolite has been the official supplier for events like Pro Kabaddi, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, National Games, Khelo India, and other sports tournaments.
“We have a stronghold in the Indian sports industry and deal in high-quality products,” Vaibhav says, adding that its wrestling mats are approved by the Wrestling Federation of India, whereas yoga mats and yoga accessories, interlocking mats, and kabaddi mats are approved by the Indian Kabaddi Federation (IKF) and Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI). Karate mats, judo mats, taekwondo mats, and kho-kho mats are approved by the Kho-Kho Federation of India.
Gravolite also made its online presence felt by launching ecommerce platform clonko.com. The platform is dedicated exclusively to different types of yoga mats and accessories. But Gravolite products are also available on Amazon.
“There are two verticals under Gravolite, floorings for national and international games, and mats for consumers who are into Yoga. What’s more, during the COVID-19-induced lockdown, due to closure of gyms, we started getting orders for gym floorings in residences,” Vaibhav says.
Gravolite’s products are manufactured across its eight manufacturing facilities located in Delhi and Haryana. Some of the raw materials are sourced locally, while primary materials like Polymer are sourced from Korea, Europe, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia.
The technology used in the development of these products is from China, Taiwan, and Korea. However, machinery developed in-house is used to recycle mats.
Challenges and the competition
According to an assessment by market research firm Fact.MR, the global sports flooring market is forecasted to reach a figure of about $ 2150 million in 2026, growing at a CAGR of 3.1 percent.
One of the major challenges Gravolite faces in this industry is consumer behaviour. “People are motivated to buy yoga mats in order to exercise every day, but that motivation doesn't last for days at a stretch, and many times, the mat remains in the store room. I guess only a small part of the population uses mats in their daily routine, and those are our customers,” Vaibhav explains.
Another challenge Gravolite is facing is getting customer traction in online sales.
“It is difficult to compete with giants like Amazon and Decathlon. Despite better customer reviews and feedback, and almost negligible return rate, it is impossible to feature at the top in keyword searches, which of course is a necessity in today's time,” Vaibhav laments.
Talking about their competition, Vaibhav says that Gravolite strictly adheres to national and international level specifications for its products, which makes it stand out from its competitors.
The way ahead
Gravolite is striving to become a household name in the Indian sports sector. The company's recent path to recognition was that it supplied mats to the Super League Kho-Kho Tournament 2021 held in February and aims to be a part of the same next year too.
“Our R&D division has been working hard to develop new products for different sports, alongside improving what we already have,” Vaibhav says signing off.