Bhaskar: From racket stringer to brand owner!
He was once a stringer of rackets outside sports shops. Today, he not only runs a chain of sports stores, he has his own brand of rackets and stringing machines. It has been a remarkable turnaround for P Bhaskar, who owns the SportsLine chain of stores in Bangalore.
The Megsha brand of rackets – a combination of his daughters’ names Misha and Meghna – was launched last year, and so far Bhaskar has been thrilled with the response. “I don’t even know how I sold 3,000 rackets,” he says.
Bhaskar comes from a family of racket stringers. His grandfather used to string rackets for British tennis players, and his father continued in the same line. Although Bhaskar grew up wanting to be an engineer, he had to rethink his ambitions after his father suffered an accident. He had to visit shops and string for their customers. The stringer would be allotted some space outside each shop, and that would be deeply humiliating to the young man. “I wanted to prove that stringing is not like being a cobbler on the road,” says Bhaskar. But the experience was invaluable as it taught him a lot about stringing technique and materials, and brought him in touch with coaches and players in the city. As his reputation grew, they would turn to him for advice on choosing equipment. “Once you’re able to string well, your customer will not go to another shop,” says Bhaskar.
He set up his own sports store on Queen’s Road, and from then on has developed into one of South India’s biggest racket-store retailers. Other stores offer a range of sports equipment, but SportsLine’s USP is its range of rackets. The contacts he made as a stringer have helped drive business, and it wasn’t long before he contemplated starting his own brand.
The first brand he registered, Misha, had copyright issues because the Zee group had already registered it. Looking for an alternative name, he finally settled upon Megsha. The brand offers five models, with one being for professionals. In terms of price and service, Bhaskar can afford to sell his rackets up to 50 per cent of the cost of established brands. He also offers a kit bag free with a racket, and a replacement guarantee if the racket frame breaks.
“These are light rackets than can be strung for high tension,” he says. “I also offer a swing weight that you can attach to the racket if you want it to be heavier for shadow practice.”
Stories such as Bhaskar’s offer us insights into the unusual diversity of strategies open to the small retailer. He knew early on that the big companies would depend on retailers like him, and not the other way round. As a service provider, he could influence the choice of rackets for the customer, and he could afford to sell his own brand at lower prices because he knows the big brands have greater costs.“Why promote the bigger brands when we can offer the same quality?” he asks. That’s a smart question, and it will be interesting if more retailers pick up his cue.