Abhishek Ganguly has raised Rs 430 crore — around $52 million — for his new venture Agilitas Sports in its first round of funding. Ganguly, currently the outgoing India and Southeast Asia managing director of Puma, is leaving the German sports and apparel maker in August.
Of the Rs 430 crore, Convergent Finance LLP, led by Harsha Raghavan — a former Fairfax India executive — has invested about Rs 400 crore. The rest has come from individual investors. Ganguly, who spoke to ET, did not disclose the names of the individual investors.
This is a large fundraise at a time when startups are struggling to raise capital due to the ongoing correction in the market.
ET first reported last week that Ganguly was on his way out and that he planned to start up. Ganguly’s colleagues at Puma India — Atul Bajaj, executive director – sales and operations, and Amit Prabhu, chief financial officer, who are also leaving the company — are cofounders in the new venture.
Ganguly told ET his new venture will look to partner and invest across the sports ecosystem, from manufacturing to retail to technology. As much as 70% of the sportswear market is in footwear and that will be a big area of focus for the startup’s team, he added.
“We will take selective bets in the sports ecosystem and I will personally be involved at an operating level to build and scale them. These would be majority-stake deals if not full acquisitions in the beginning. A big part will be focussed on the footwear segment,” Ganguly said. “We will focus on offering the right sportswear products with good quality, and an aspirational value,” he said, talking about the kind of ventures or brands Agilitas Sports is looking to back.
While ventures such as Mensa Brands and Globalbees have a similar approach in building a ‘house of brands’ play to invest and scale up, Ganguly said Agilitas won’t be investing in rival firms within the sportswear segment. “We are looking at the whole sports ecosystem but we won’t invest in two similar companies competing against each other,” he added.
Explaining the funding rationale, Raghavan, managing partner at Convergent, said: “Their (Agilitas) strong leadership capabilities are complemented by their skill in identifying consumer trends early. They are exactly the kind of passionate entrepreneurs whose ideas we love to back with our capital. Convergent will work with Agilitas in the areas of operations, capital allocation, and long-term business strategy.”
A successful stint at Puma
Ganguly launched the new venture after spending more than 17 years at Puma. He had joined the Indian unit of the German footwear and apparel company at its inception in 2005 and became its MD nearly a decade later in 2014.
Under him, Puma’s sales rose five-fold, from Rs 600 crore in 2014 to nearly Rs 3,000 crore last calendar year. It is the largest sports brand in the country, outselling rivals Adidas, Nike and Reebok combined.
Ganguly, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow, also drove an aggressive store expansion strategy at Puma — taking the total door count from 150 to over 480 outlets during his nine-year stint at the helm. He is also part of the Indian Angel Network and a limited partner or LP in early-stage investment fund Stellaris Venture Partners.
A fast-growing market
Within the lifestyle and discretionary segments, sports goods and footwear witnessed the highest growth last fiscal year, growing 41% and 34% each over (pre-pandemic) 2019, according to the Retailers Association of India.
As the world’s most populous nation, India is one of the fastest-growing and largest international markets for sporting companies. Brands such as Reebok, Adidas, Nike and Puma have been around for more than two decades in India and have grown by virtue of pushing their wares through cricketing partnerships and other sporting activities.