Bengaluru: A 100 nm small virus that brought the world still has left its impression on all of us. A 55-day lockdown throughout the country in 2020 is inextricably linked to the nation’s economy, as it has dramatically impeded industrial sectors because people worldwide are currently cautious about spending money.
The covid-19 pandemic had a drastic impact on all the industries. With major sporting events suspended since March 2020, the lives of people involved in sports business industries have been adversely affected. From shop owners to employees, all are struggling with their everyday lives, despite reopening the shops.
Rohit, an employee in a sports and fitness equipment shop in RR Nagar, hoped that his financial problems would also pass with the lockdown. However, due to the low sales, his owner cannot pay the salary he received before lockdown.
“It was challenging to survive during the lockdown. Hemant sir(his owner) tried to help us throughout this period. Managing basic needs became a big challenge for me. As I am the only bread earner in the family, my family is dependent on me,”Rohit S, Employee, SpoFit Overseas
Rohit also emphasized that the cost of commodities is increasing every day. “It is becoming hard to continue.I had to take out loans because I was not able to keep up with the expenses. I thought I would give a good life to my daughter, but it seems like God has other plans,” he added.
Several aspiring sportspersons join sports academies during spring each year, which adds to the growth of sports business industries. Reports show that the sports goods industry in Jalandhar, which manufactures around 70% of all sports goods in India, was facing a business loss of Rs. 2 to 3 crores per day as of April 2020.
Hemant Kapoor, CEO, and MD, SpoFit Overseas, called ‘pre-covid’ and ‘post-covid’ two eras in the sports industry. “All the sectors saw balanced sales. Initially, people were buying many indoor games like carrom boards, and a point came when we could not supply. Then, a few months into the lockdown, people started becoming health conscious and started buying fitness equipment.”
However, Hemant said that now all the other sectors see no sales throughout the lockdown. Post lockdown, the sales are not balanced. “If we see sales of badminton racquets for a week, the other week we see something else. It has made it difficult for us to stock up and predict the market,” he added.
Retailers say that the industry, which was growing steadily at around 23-24 percent per year, is now facing a 55 to 60 percent loss. According to the Department Of Commerce, Government of India, export of sports goods has decreased by around 18 percent in FY 20-21. The Indian market for sports and fitness products was projected to cross US$ 6,054 million by 2024, rising at a steady rate of 9 percent.
Prashant Planet, Secretary of the Karnataka State Dealers Association, said that the closure of the schools and colleges is mainly affecting the sports dealers in Bangalore. He said that a sports dealer is dependent on them and government tenders. “50 percent of our products are imported products. The cost of imports and exports has gone up, resulting in an increase of 15 to 20 percent for the consumer. The government officials are also taking a lot of time to clear customs,” he said.
Athletes, too, are going through a tough time. Due to the current scenario, players are losing their crucial time as they will be ineligible to play in age-group tournaments in the future. They, too, had an impact on the sports industries both during and post lockdown.
Archit Shah, a first division cricketer, says that he had to get equipment from his local sports shops in the initial lockdown as his fitness coach took online fitness sessions. “The lockdown happened during the peak season, when owners generally get a lot of equipment as they know many players may need a gear change. However, with the sudden lockdown, they were hugely affected,” he said.
Experts believe the spending capacity of people has been hugely affected. Saswaate Mukherjee, Professor of Economics, Presidency University, said that Sports are majorly an entertainment medium for people in India. “With limited resources, people are buying essentials and barely investing in sports equipment. And even if they are investing, instead of going for high-end equipment, they are settling for the bare minimum,” she said.
She believes that the industry can come back to its previous state only after the economy revives. Retailers are looking forward to lowering or temporarily quashing GST on sports gear to encourage people back to the stores. Until then, many people like Rohit, who survive on loans, hope the bad times will soon be over.