Sports Goods Manufacturing Industry in India originated on 13th April, 1883 at Sialkot (Now in Pakistan).Sardar Ganda Singh Oberoi found a vision to start this industry who founded Oberoi Limited in Sialkot and made first export of sports goods to England in May 1884.
When India was partitioned in 1947, many of Sialkot's skilled Hindu craftsmen migrated across the border into Punjab, settling in Jalandhar and Meerut, where the Indian sports goods industry is now based. Since the craftsmen were settled in these areas, the entrepreneurs started pouring in Jalandhar and Meerut and thus started the present Indian Sports Goods Industry in 1948 precisely.
The sports goods industry in India has witnessed a phenomenal growth over the past six decades and now occupies a place of prominence in the Indian economy in view of its massive potential for employment, growth and export. There has been an increasing emphasis on its planned development, aimed at optimal utilization of resources for maximizing the returns, particularly from exports.
The Indian sports goods industry manufactures 318 items. However, major items that are exported are inflatable balls, hockey sticks and balls, cricket bats and balls, boxing equipment, fishing equipment, indoor games like carrom and chess boards and different kinds of protective equipment. The Indian sports goods industry is a highly labour intensive industry which provides employment to the weaker sections of society and also employs a large number of women.
Indian sports goods industry is in its nascent stage, though over 100 years old and some of the manufacturing centers over the years have established in and around Jalandhar, Meerut, Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Moradabad, Chennai, Jammu and Calcutta. Of these, Jalandhar and Meerut together claim around 75% to 80% of the total production. The evolution of these two clusters was a result of partition of India in 1947 when the people of Sialkot, Pakistan (major production centre of sports goods then and now also) migrated to Jalandhar and Meerut Inflatable balls and other type of balls constitute the bulk of the sports items exported. Others include cricket bats and related equipment, hockey sticks, gymnasium and athletic equipment and other sports equipment. The major export countries are US, UK, Germany and France. It is believed that domestic market is equivalent to the export market in money value, with prominence of items such as board games and the like. The future of sports industry looks promising with the rising popularity of sports and increasing demand both, in domestic as well as in the international markets.
With what started as a struggle of few entrepreneurs and their workers transplanting their roots to a new place, Jalandhar and Meerut sports goods cluster has emerged as a major manufacturing center with forward and backward linkages along with local associations and institutional support. There are about 250 exporting units, around 1000 manufacturing units for domestic markets, and some 4000 micro enterprises. In addition, there are around 20,000 household units located in and around both the city. Together these MSMEs employ around 1 lakh workers directly or indirectly. The turnover of this cluster is approximately Rs 2000 crores (unofficial figure) catering to domestic and export markets.
This cluster represents an interesting scenario wherein labor intensive industry using age-old technology is exporting sporting goods to over 130 countries. Problems of low productivity, diminishing profit margins and absence of niche markets, all together plague the industry as a whole. Coming to finer classification, this cluster has prominent features of an “incipient cluster” in terms of technology being used as defined by Schmitz and Nadvi (1999), with market reach of that of a “mature cluster”. The major products of this cluster are inflatable balls which include football, rugby ball, basket ball, etc; wood based equipments comprising of cricket bat, hockey stick, carom board, chess board, etc; protective equipment for cricket, hockey, rugby such as gloves, shin guards, chest guards, etc; racquets, shuttle cocks among the 200 odd items this cluster manufactures. Each product category of the sporting goods is operating in its own national and local context and thus being affected by different market and operational forces.
Even years after its establishment, not many improvements have been seen in its operational and other business related activities. The cluster is afflicted with problems of outdated techniques, near absence of standards and quality of the products as well the processes; acute shortage of some of the raw materials; unavailability of skilled labor; The demand for sports goods is increasing in international as well as the domestic markets and this cluster holds the potential but lacks the technical know how. The cluster faces immediate threats from countries like China, Taiwan and closer home, Sialkot in Pakistan.
In Jalandhar and Meerut, three kinds of establishments are usually found:
Apart from Meerut and Jalandhar, Jammu has also come in the map of manufacturing sports goods mainly Cricket Bats and the makers there have grabbed a major chunk of domestic market from Jalandhar and Meerut manufacturers.
This sports goods cluster with over 120 years of existence, has crafted a place for itself in the global sporting goods market. It has emerged as a reliable supplier of sports goods to the international markets, catering to some of the top brands. With about 115 exporting enterprises, the cluster significantly contributes to the sports goods exports from India. In the year 2000-2001 the exports measured 320 crores, which increased to 585 crores in the year 2008-09 and further increased to 1500 crores in 2016-17. (The figure excludes sports shoes, sports apparel and fitness equipment). There are another 400 odd enterprises that cater to merchant exports as well as the domestic Indian market. Significant number of industry networks and support institutions exist in the cluster. The main ones being:
UNIDO has worked with the Jalandhar Sports Goods Cluster between the years 2002 and 2005 under its Cluster Development Programme and from May 2005 to Dec.2008 under in its new global research project of ‘Cluster Development Programme and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The industry can be described as a traditional skill based one, as it is highly labour intensive and requires very specific skills and manual techniques, whether it is in the stitching of footballs or in crafting of a cricket bat. A large number of home based manufacturers are also involved in the value chain. Most of the enterprises in the cluster are small and cottage scale. The exact number of firms in the Jalandhar and Meerut sports goods cluster is difficult to enumerate, as is the case with of most of these traditional clusters. But the estimate is of over 2000 firms employing around 5 lakh workers directly or indirectly. The main products of the cluster are inflatable balls, cricket, hockey, protective equipments, boxing, tennis, badminton, chess, field and track equipment, golf balls, hammocks etc. The cluster caters to the demands of the global as well as regional and local markets and provides employment to the vulnerable members of the society including a large number of women workers.
Advantage India The sports goods sector is a major contributor to the Indian economy in terms of employment and enjoys a clear competitive edge.