Do you love your startup? Go a step further, do you live your startup? Look, all of us know that the road will be hard & the visibility hazy. You will see neither the impending failures nor the upcoming successes before you hit them. Look at it this way – your only light has two batteries: passion & perseverance; don’t let them run out before you reach the next pit stop. Why this pseudo psychological mumbo-jumbo? Just to stress the point that you must choose your field carefully; align your passion with your startup or you are just increasing the challenges.
Live Your Sport, founded by Siddharth Suchde is one such startup. Sidhharth was a professional squash player, reached a world ranking of 39 and now has launched Liveyoursport.com. The sports & fitness e-commerce startup builds on his understanding of the space to give you a hassle-free solution for your fitness needs. He explained more about his vision below.
Who is the team behind Live Your Sport?
I’m the sole founder and as of this moment we’re a team of 10. I graduated from Harvard in 2007 following which I played professional Squash representing India for the last 6 years at various events around the world and reaching a highest world ranking of 39. But it certainly don’t feel like being a single founder though, as I’ve been lucky to have an incredible group of people to work with who help ease the inevitable pains of starting up. We’re all under 30, incredibly passionate, working 90+ hours a week on an idea we believe can transform sport retail in India.
While I love the passion for sports that your ‘About Us’ section exudes, there are other players in this sector with big pockets for a marketing warfare. How are you aiming to differentiate?
The first thing to understand is that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon (in fact it’s an ultra-marathon). The winners in this race aren’t going to be decided in the next 12 months, it could take 12 years and a lot could change in that time. What our competitors have in their coffers right now is irrelevant because quite frankly India hasn’t reached an inflection point where you have 400-500 million regular online consumers and it’s still really early in the day. You don’t have to pioneer an industry to dominate it. Microsoft and numerous others are great examples of that. Plus if you look all over the world sport has always been dominated by institutions with a high domain understanding of this niche, which unlike many other categories requires a singular focus and determination to master.
Which leads us to the next point, just how do we differentiate? Simple, we offer a better and more informed shopping experience. There are numerous ways to do this, but I’ll restrain myself to highlighting just two. First, sport fitness and health are quite complex concepts. If you’re going to be paying Rs. 5000 for a pair of running shoes you’d like to know whether it offers support for pronators or supinators. Or if your shelling out Rs. 10,000 for a racket whether a particular specification is more likely to cause you tennis elbow like symptoms or not etc. Secondly, we intend to genuinely target every niche and not only the main categories of sports thus serving small but incredibly passionate communities who aren’t being targeted. People care about their health and fitness goals more than even before and fortunately for us this trend will only accelerate as the average consumer continues to get more informed.
I’m not suggesting we’ve accomplished all the above (or even 5%), but merely that if anyone’s going to capitalize on these concepts we’re more likely to do it as it’s something we inherently understand and have grown up with.
Probably a litmus test is to call us up the next time you decide to make a purchase for a sports product!
As I understand, Live Your Sports aims to go beyond the vanilla e-commerce and include services such as designing infrastructure. Wouldn’t this necessitate a physical presence in many cities? How are you planning to go about it?
Yes, as of now we haven’t faced that problem as the first 4-5 projects we’re dealing with all happen to be in the places where we have a presence. Which is why we were very strategic in which institutions we’d like to target. Of course, if we do a fantastic job and start getting projects from all over the country that’ll be a great problem to have. I’d be lying if I said we have a solution for that, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. We’ve thought about this situation arising and brainstormed a few options but reality always tends to be different. So there’s no point in me providing a theoretical explanation as I’d only be able to intelligently discuss this issue once we’ve encountered such a problem.
E-commerce is not exactly the easiest of sectors at the moment, what with rising marketing costs and a complex supply chain. What have been your major challenges and how are you responding?
E-commerce is tough because you have to have a really long term view. It could take 10+ years before any real winners emerge. Maybe in a lot of other businesses you could see a great initial rate of return (IRR) but it’s harder to scale massively. In e-commerce the potential to transform an industry is huge and the opportunity – especially in India – is massive. So it doesn’t feel too depressing putting up with all the headaches. High risk, high reward conundrum.
In terms of challenges, we face the same issues as all other online retailers: logistics, government regulation through inter -state taxes, technology talent, declining Rupee, COD returns etc. We try and dissect each issue and make minor 1-2% efficiency improvements. Let’s take logistics. We’ve spent hours going through the data and understanding which kind of packaging reduces volumetric calculations while still providing adequate protection for the product. Additionally, identifying which courier company has the strongest network in which region and which ones offer the best rates for bulky, light and COD shipments depending on pickup and delivery Pin Codes. Further, we’ve learnt how to avoid getting repeatedly flagged by Sales Tax authorities who frequently mistake all our sports balls for bombs and other such ridiculous hassles which are part of daily life. We’re far from perfect but these small changes in logistics have helped save us 20% in delivery charges and when you add them up across various verticals they add up to significant savings in the end.
Can you share some growth numbers?
I’d prefer not to have them published. But as an overview our sales have increased by 40-50% month on month. Of course some months have been slower (20%) and some faster (100+%) but we’ve only gone ‘live’ since June so it’s very early days. We’re also doing 4-5 infrastructure projects and have a healthy number of deals for bulk supplies with certain institutions around the country. So overall it’s been encouraging as we’re really young.
What is the next step for your team? Focusing on operations, looking for funding?
The next step is to continue focusing on growth and driving money in through the door. We’d like to grow organically as much as possible which is why we’re engaged in more than one vertical and it’s working out desirably so far. Funding is not a major concern as of now as we’re quite bootstrapped and have a very low burn rate. So definitely not the primary focus for the moment.
What is your one tip for aspiring entrepreneurs? And, with your sports background, can you also give some tips to sustain the ‘fight’ in face of adversities that will inevitably come in the startup journey?
I’m too young and inexperienced to give any tips to entrepreneurs. It’s been 6 months on the job for me. However, what I learnt in sport has been invaluable and I hope it might be useful for all the other individuals starting off too. In squash you end up losing a lot more than you win. The failures happen every week and very publicly. Some of them are just humiliating and you want to dig a hole in the ground right then and there. I’ve wanted to quit many times but I’ve never quit at anything in my life. So I figured the best thing to do – especially in the initial days of touring the world circuit ranked at the very bottom – was to make incremental improvements every single day and just hang on for dear life.
Surprisingly, things end up getting better and before you know it, if you just persevere and continue to work hard daily you inch closer to your goals. It’s something which I experienced firsthand competing at the world stage in Squash and something which I noticed time and time again amongst the best performing athletes. Let’s just hope the same principle applies for entrepreneurs!
More information at http://www.liveyoursport.com/