Vasa International – a 40 year old export firm has become the official licensee of University of Oxford for nine countries including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Mauritius. Recently, Vasa International unveiled its flagship store at Phoenix Marketcity, Kurla, Mumbai. In a conversation with Retailer media, Hardik Vasa, the owner of Vasa International, talks about the enormous business opportunities in India, which makes it a continent from business perspective. Also, he briefs about the legacy attached with the brand ‘Oxford’ which gives it an edge over the competitors.
You are operating in many countries other than India. According to you, what makes India a favourable market for brands?
For me, India is not a country, it is a continent. I call it continent because the kind of people we have, most of the population is below 35, which calls for a massive business opportunity. Indian economy seems to be doing well when the world’s economy is going down, so opportunity for licensing industry becomes very high because today people especially kids are extremely brand conscious. This is the best time for brands to enter India. There is a big vacuum in supply as well, we do not see many brands especially in Back-To-School category. When it comes to branded stationery, there is always an inclination to collect unique stationery products, though they may or may not use them. And entering the market with great brand and quality is flawless.
What kind of tie-ups are you looking at with respect to Oxford merchandise?
We are open to joining hands with pharma companies, schools, and institutions. As far as my particular category i.e. bags is concerned, we have competitors like Nike, Adidas, Reebok, but I am sure that when we approach the institutes with a brand like Oxford, we will have an edge over the competitors as our brand Oxford stands for education and values and is an impeccable legacy in terms of education. And we have the masses who understand brand and quality. Moreover, the prices have been kept competitive, understanding the Indian consumer.
What are the price points for Oxford merchandise in India?
We have understood the price pints of our peers. We have always maintained similar price points to make the consumer feel comfortable. We are here not to break or make the market, but to follow the market gracefully, while offering best quality at the same time. The price range for bags varies between INR 1,200 to 4,000. The ones which go above the range are special featured healthy backpack ones designed to protect the spine of the student. Even if the bags weigh a lot, they are so well-designed that they go with the shape of the spine of the student rather than damaging it. Even we have bag packs with reflective material. We have products starting from as low as Rs. 6 as stationery is a very huge category.
So, are the kids playing a major role in purchase related decisions?
I would say kids are decision makers and they make the brands more popular. Moreover, the brand consciousness in any other category is not as high as Back-To-School category.
Did you face any challenges while dealing with Oxford?
I was very lucky on that part as Oxford has been very flexible and very easy to work with. All the values of the product including look and feel, packaging etc. need to be approved by the licensor, but we got approvals really quick, which can inspire other players in India.
Did the licensors assist you on price points?
As a master licensee, we have complete freedom over pricing and what is moving in the market. In case some product is moving fast in the market, we need to convince the licensor and a few skeptical things need to be taken care of as far as the packaging is concerned.
Can you divulge the revenue sharing model?
I won’t be commenting on that. Generally, licensors take a minimum guaranty which we have to work on. This MG is uniform across the entire range of properties of a brand.
What are the strategies to market the brand?
We have a tie-up with Franchise India and they are helping us in getting distributors. After the launch of the store, we may have two verticals – one for appointing more distributors and the other a franchising model.
How has been the sale of school bags?
Bags have sold very well, even beyond our expectation. During the season, we did our test marketing in Haryana and Bengaluru, and the consumers were happy with the quality and price points. Right now, we are waiting for the school bags season again during Diwali and, at the moment, focus has been shifted to stationery, because stationery is something that keeps moving round the year.
Is Back-To College category on the cards?
Yes, we have backpacks, college notebooks (the wider ones), but there is no big range for college category because there is a limited usage of stationery in colleges, though stationery caters to all age groups.