Sports Bar Business in India from a Cultural and Branding Perspective
Post liberalization the Indian economy has grown exponentially. The fall out of this is the increase in disposable income of the consumers, emergence of credit card culture and the decreasing size of households. The change in the economic status is the catalyst to the change in the social and cultural trends that have caused the change in the way a consumer views everyday food and beverages. The consumer today has very different preferences. Consumers today are more aware about different things in the world due to extensive travel and foreign media. These are some of the social and economic reasons behind the consumer moving towards fine dining, imported spirits and wine as opposed to conventional beverages. Due to this paradigm shift coffee shops, restaurants, fast food joints and bars have become successful.
India is relatively new to the concept of a bar. In India bars are located mostly in the metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad etc. Sports bars in particular are very new to our country and are growing at a very rapid rate. The advent of IPL and the increase in craze for club football and F1 has only boosted its prospects.
The Indian economy is booming and the living standards and the lifestyles in the urban areas are fast changing. Entertainment as an industry is growing exponentially over the past decade. From the turn of the 21st century more and more avenues of entertainment have opened up in our country. Eating out as a form of entertainment has been catching up over the last decade. More and more families are going out for dinner or lunch on a regular basis and this is a form of entertainment for them.
Changing Indian Economy & Consumer Preferences:
As of 2007 the median age of India is 24. Due to the abundant job opportunities and the surge in the economy the amount spent by a consumer on alcohol has increased significantly. The number of women working has increased by a large percentage and due to this the double income households have more disposable income. They can afford give their children more pocket money and they are spending a far greater amount socializing in restaurants and bars. The expenditure of consumers on alcohol drinks has increased by 650% from 1995-2007. (Consumer Lifestyles india, 2008)
The rise in income is leading to overall growth in consumption by an average Indian. Eating out on a regular basis has now come to become a cool habit. Eating outside is becoming more and more popular. According to a research conducted by Federation Of Hotel and restaurant Association of India (www.fhari.com 2005) there are 10 million households in India with an average income of Rs 46,000/month and 2 million households with average income of 115,000/month. Due to the change in their economic strata, eating out has become a trend within these elite groups. There are 100 million 17-21 year old in India, and six out of 10 households have a child that was born in the post liberalization and has been brought up with no guilt of consumption. It is estimated that as of 2005 there are 5,00,000 restaurants in the organised sector and this will only increase in the future.
According to a survey conducted by The Economic Times, 1.7 percent of Indians dine out more than once a week, 2.5 percent do so once a week and around 2.1 percent dine outside once a fortnight. About 5.5 percent eat out of home once a month on an average and 5.4 percent eat out once every 2-3 months. Around 8 percent say eating out is relegated only to festivals. For 69.6 percent eating out is a rather rare occasion. (Ref: The Economic Times, 21 May,2005).
The consumers in the urban areas are more aware of the international brands due to their exposure from offshore travel and media and do not hesitate to pay for premium goods. According to National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) there are five classes of consumer households and the greatest growth is in the upper strata. Upper strata are defined as households with income in excess of Rs 215,000. More than 80% of the top earning households in India are located in the top seven cities of our country. Due to this most of the disposable income in the country is located in these areas. This is the reason behind the growth rate of restaurants, coffee shops, fast food joints and bars in these cities. Another major factor influencing the growth in the food and beverage industry in India is the fact that more than 70% of the country’s population is under the age of 40. This explains the rise of expenditure on leisure products and entertainment.
Indian Theme Restaurants:
However, eating out as a concept is also fast changing. People want to break away from the monotony of eating in the same food joints and are looking for more experiential and new avenues to hang out and spend time with their family and friends. Themed restaurants and bars are the flavour of the season. More and more themed bars and restaurants are mushrooming in various metros like across India.
A number of theme restaurants have been successful in India. Some of the successful and well know theme restaurants are
- Mercurries in Delhi – Theme, Solar system
- Orient Express at the Taj Palace New Delhi – Theme, Railway carriage of yore
- Village in Mumbai – Theme, Indian village
- Gufaa Ohri’s in Hyderabad – Theme, Dungeon etc.
- Serengeti Ohri’s in Hyderabad – Theme, Jungle (Roy, 2008)
Each of these theme based restaurants has been successful as the people are looking for a lot more than just eating at the food joints. The time they spend at the restaurant is made more enjoyable interactive and memorable because of the different concepts of these restaurants.
This theme based format has been inspired from the success stories of the west.
Indian Theme Bars/Sports Bars:
Another popular retail format which is just picking up in the Indian market is the bars. Bars in India have mostly mushroomed around metros and other urban areas. There are very few bars in other parts of the country. Traditionally consumers bought the liquor at wine shops and consumed them at home. However, now with the advent of Restaurant/Bars, Bars and clubs, the consumption habits are changing. Bars in India are of various types. Some are social bars where people get together to socialise drink, eat and have fun. Some of these bars are theme based like the Hard Rock Cafe and TGIF. Then there are the shady bars where only men go. Bars with a big enough dance floor are termed as nightclubs. Sports bars are another kind of bars which have just made their way into the Indian market.
Sports bars are bars where sports fans find an authentic sporting ambience with large LCD screens for watching live feeds of important international matches, pool tables, basketball courts and video games. Today there are close to 30 sports bars in India across various metros. The biggest player in the Indian market currently is Future Group’s subsidiary Galaxy Entertainment Corporation Ltd. It has two brands under it, “The Sports Bar” and “Sports Express.”
Sports Express offers a wide variety of entertainment activities ranging from Television Programmes, Cricket, Soccer, Pool, Basket-Ball area, Darts and certain places also have a Cricket Pitch. They also serve various Indian and imported brands of liquor along with pan Indian cuisine. It has seven outlets in various cities and another four outlets in the pipeline.
“The Sports Bar” another brand of Galaxy Entertainment Corporation Ltd is located in Mumbai. It is a complete sports bar complimented with an unrivalled ambience. It has a giant screen, multiple LCD TV’s, basketball court, pool tables, punching bags and dart boards. It is a favourite destination for many professionals who just wish to unwind after a hard day’s work.
Xtreme Sports Bar is another chain of sports bars; it has seven outlets across Hyderabad, Bangalore and Gurgaon. They also have similar offerings as the other sports bars. However, they are looking to expand further and are looking for suitable people to take up the franchise.
Other popular sports bars in India are,
- Champions, Delhi
- Starstruck, Kolkata
- Super stars, Kolkata (Roy, 2008)
Other theme bars in India are,
- Hard Rock Cafe one of the biggest retail brands in the world has opened its shops in various locations like Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore etc.
- TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) is another example of an international retail format opening up in India and doing well.
- 21 Fahrenheit
- Condom bar Chandigarh
There are a number of factors due to which these theme based bars and restaurants are successful. One important factor which is attractive to people to come to these places is the authenticity they have in decor and food. All these theme based food retail outlets are true to their name and provide a unique experience in line with their theme. The moment you step into these places you are transformed to a fantasy world and the food they serve is very authentic and apt to their name. Even in the case of sports the whole ambience created in the place is so electrifying during any international sporting event. The decor and the buzz in a sports bar are beyond words. With the flags hung in every corner of the place and the giant screen to watch the watch on with a drink in your hand is an experience a lot of the consumers have come to love. Some have argued that the concept of having theme bars and restaurants are just a fad, but it has been proved otherwise.
Most of the academic articles that I came across were written in the global perspective. There is little literature or data available about bars in the Indian context. In particular when it comes to Sports Bars in India the only information available is about some of the sports bars in India in brief and about the themed restaurants in India.
There is no clear information available about the consumer profile of the people who frequent the Sports Bars in India. Also, there is no information available about the consumption pattern of Sports Bar as entertainment/leisure in the Indian context. The articles I have found have no information what so ever on the branding opportunities Sports Bars have. The Socio-Cultural changes that have impacted the average consumer’s outlook towards a bar are also an important factor that is missing in the literature available. The reasons behind the bar being perceived as a socially acceptable and sophisticated socializing place today is also not covered in the information Available.
To study the sports bar business in India and identify the opportunities these bars have as a business in India. Also to understand the changing customer behaviour towards sports bars.
- To study the evolution of sports bars in India and understand their system of operation
- To study the growth of sports bars in India and also understand the consumer behaviour related to sports bars
Exploratory research in 3 areas:
- Study the evolution of the sports bars in India
- Attitude of consumers towards sports bars
- Patterns and reason for visiting sports bars
Data Collection Method:
PHASE I: Secondary Research – Studying the different retail formats of bars in India and their evolution by gathering information from different articles and journals published both globally and locally.
PHASE II: Primary Research – Primary research involved mostly qualitative research.
1. 5-6 In-depth interviews with industry stake holders like bar owners and bar managers;
- Ravi K Malpuri owner Hall Of Fame Sports Bar, jubilee hills, Hyderabad
- Eddie Richards manager Hall of Fame Sports Bar, jubilee hills, Hyderabad
- Arjun Yelluri owner of Xtreme Sports Bar, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad
- Santosh Nath bar manager, Xtreme Sports Bar, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad
- Pramod Reddy owner Live Sports Bar, Nubilee Hills, Hyderabad
2. In-depth interviews with consumers (10-15)
- 3 Male (21-30 age group), 3 Male (31-45 age group)
- 3 Female (21-30 age group), 3 Female (31-45 age group)
The findings of these interviews will be used to generate a questionnaire. The purpose of the questionnaire is to validate the findings from the In-Depth interviews.
3. Type of research: Qualitative/Quantitative
- Number of respondents 150
- Age group 21-45
- Questionnaire administered to consumers and non consumers of bars/sports bars.
The In-depth interviews with the industry stake holders will give me a better idea about the target audience and their profiles. The questionnaire was designed from the inputs gathered after the In-depth interviews with industry stake holders and consumers. The questionnaire was administered online due to the absence of bars in the state of Gujarat. The questionnaire is attached in the appendix.
The information and data collected through the In-depth Interviews and Questionnaire would be analyzed to come up with research findings for the Sports Bar Industry.
Anybody living in cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, within the age group of 21-45. The person could either have visited or not visited sports bars.
- Random Sampling
- Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore
Evolution of Sports Bars
Bars have been around in India for decades. Mostly they were dance bars and some bar upscale bars in the metros. Since the beginning of the 21st century more and more upscale bars and theme bars have been proliferating in India starting with the major metros like Delhi and Mumbai to now cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Gurgaon etc. As the income levels of an average Indian in the cities is increasing, they are looking for different avenues to spend their leisure time and hang out with friends and colleagues.
The Indian businessmen have always looked to the west for success stories to start their endeavours in India. The bars/restaurants is an example of that. Serving alcohol in a restaurant was a thing of the star hotels only initially. Today hundreds of restaurants have a bar and serve a variety of foreign/Indian liquor and a wide range of cocktails and mocktails.
Then came the concept of having gaming areas like pool and bowling. This business model did not take off in India as the Indian government did not give permission to this kind of gaming zones to serve liquor and they retired to becoming just gaming zones and entertained youth and families. After this during the late 90’s and early 2000’s theme restaurants started opening in India. These restaurants charged a premium for the experience they provide to their customers. The decoration in these restaurants was exquisite. Places like the Oriental Express and The Village restaurant are examples of this.
Evolving Indian Market & Consumer
The Indian customer is ever evolving and adapts to the western trends very easily. The cumulative impact of increasing disposable income, foreign exposure and western media has changed the requirements and consumption habits of young Indians. Hanging out in bars has become a casual thing and a way to unwind for us. Thanks to these upscale bars and clubs, it is not a taboo anymore to go and have a drink in a bar in India. As the consumption of bars has increased also came in a number of clubs starting in major cities like Mumbai Delhi and Bangalore. Initially only hotels had in-house clubs, but over the years a lot of independent clubs have emerged.
Sports Bars are popular hang outs in Europe and America. The first ever sports bar was opened way back in 1894. “Nuf Ced” McGreevy opened his “3rd Base Saloon” in Boston. The number of local tournaments that happen in these countries is much larger. Due to this a large number of local fans flock to these sports bar to form a community of sorts to support their teams. Apart from these general sports bars there are a large number of bars which promote and support a particular sports club. Most of these bars are in collaboration with the sporting club itself. The telecast all live matches of the club, sell merchandize and have fan interactions at a regular basis at these bars.
There was little or no real differentiating factor between bars in India. The need to differentiate gave way to different theme bars and restaurants across India. The first sports bar in India was opened in Goa. It was the perfect place to open the first sports bar as it has a rich culture of football and has a number of spectacular local football clubs like Salgaocar, Dempo, Churchill Brothers, Vasco Sports Club. The fans here have been known to travel to different venues to support their teams.
Today there are a number of clubs and bars in all major cities in India. Due to this there is not much differentiation between these places. Sports Bars have always been very popular in the western countries where it has become a culture of a sort where friends go to a particular sports bar to watch every local teams match. This popular successful and well tested format of bar was introduced in India only a few years back. Today there are more than 40 sports bars in India.
Impact OF IPL
The recent surge in the number of sports bars in India can be attributed to the success of IPL (Indian Premier League). Cricket has always been like a religion in India. The only problem was it was not short like a football match. Now with the advent of 20-20 cricket it has become easier for the audience to consume this sport. Due to the fast nature of this format of cricket IPL has become a huge success and this has helped sports bars in India flourish in leaps and bounds.
As most of the major cities have their own IPL teams it has increased the local audience’s involvement in the sport. This has been the major factor which has influenced the proliferation of sports bars in the recent years across cities in India. Sports bars are filled to capacity on a match day. The most popular sports in Indian sports bars apart from cricket are football and F1. Some sports bars have tie-ups with local sporting teams and sell their merchandize and promote those teams.
For example, Xtreme sports bar in Hyderabad has a tie-up with Deccan Chargers which is the cities cricket team in the IPL. They have different offers and promotional events during the IPL season and in particular during a Deccan Chargers match. Deccan chargers in turn use this bar as a platform to promote and interact with the local fans. The team players make appearances during the IPL season and interact with the fans, also, they have other promotional activities like having the official team cheerleaders come and perform at the bar.
Recently Manchester United Food & Beverage (Asia) Pte Ltd and Billionaire Sports Pvt Ltd in collaboration have announced that they will open the first ever offshore club sports bar in India in the city of Delhi. The first ever Manchester United Restaurant and Bar will set the precedence for other clubs to setup their sports in the country where the love and fan following for English Football is rapidly increasing. Local clubs like the Deccan Chargers, Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals have announced their intentions to launch their own sports bar to promote their clubs and entertain their loyal fan base. This would give them an avenue to brand their sporting clubs and also sell their wide variety of merchandize.
Xtreme Sports Bar, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad
Manufacturers of sports equipment could use sports bars as a platform to indulge the customers through subliminal branding. The branding at the bars can be done very subtly. As there is already a lot of player merchandize available, sports manufacturers like Nike can promote their brands by hanging only Nike sponsored player jersey’s and memorabilia. Apart from this the manufacturer’s merchandize can be sold at these bars. For ex: Puma the official sponsor of Deccan Chargers can choose to sell their merchandize in these bars where the involvement of the customer is very high as most of the customers are sports fans.
Xtreme Sports Bar, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad
SuryaRay Elixirs Pvt. Ltd.the parent company Xtreme Sports Bar has the largest chain of sports bars in India. The annual revenue of this chain is already in excess of Rs. 25cr within just 2 years of launching. They have 7 outlets across India in cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore and Gurgaon. They plan to expand further in the next couple of years and target revenue of Rs. 160 in a couple of years.
Apart from the large number of high definition TV’s and a few large projection screens Xtreme Sports bar also offers Foos Ball, Golf Simulators, Dart Board Games, Console Gaming, Lan Gaming and Pool tables for the entertainment of their customers during non match days.
Live Sports Bar, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad
Hall of Fame is the new sports bar that has opened in Hyderabad located in Jubilee hills. This bar boasts of eighteen 42 inch televisions and two large projection screens to provide the ultimate match viewing experience to their customers. Licence of sports like NBA etc have been taken by the bar to telecast uninterrupted matches over broadband. The menu itself consists of 12 different types of chicken wings which are the most popular among the match watching crowd apart from other continental dishes.
The raw materials for the food are directly imported from the US in order to provide the highest quality of food to their customers. They call themselves a sports grill and not just a sports bar as they give a lot of importance to their expertise in the food services they provide. Hall of Fame plans to expand its branches into cities like Mumbai and Bangalore later this year.
Focus On High-End Decor & Quality Of Service:
In order to compete in the clustered bars and restaurants segment sports bars have carved a niche for themselves. The food service industry is very competitive and in order to compete in them sports bars are redefining this segment and investing a lot in high end decorations and facilities. These bars have a large number of high resolution plasma TV’s, and large projection screens and comfortable seating arrangements equipped with class bean bags, sofas and comfortable booths as opposed to the normal seating arrangements available in other bars and restaurants.
To keep up the upscale image most of these bars serve a variety of cuisines and employ well trained chefs. The menus are exquisite and offer a large variety. Both Indian and foreign liquors are served in these bars ranging from beer, wine, whisky, scotch, cocktails, mocktails and other in-house specialities. The menu is quite often named after the local club players and sports stars to increase the involvement of the customers.
To add to the ambience and the experience player jerseys and flags of different players and sports teams are displayed in the bar. Autographed photos of players, jerseys and other sports memorabilia are hung on the walls. These bars partner with sports teams and liquor companies. As most people come here to watch live matches and have a drink while doing so, the menu focus is mostly on starters and appetizers as people would like to have something to munch on while drinking and watching the matches.
One of the unique attractions of these bars is the private cabins they offer. A customer can call and book the private cabins which have a seating capacity of 8-12 people and are equipped with comfortable sofas and bean bags along with a plasma TV. Customers can enjoy the match, sports bar ambience whilst having their privacy. Regular customers are given preference for the cabin and also these bars offer a variety of offers when a local team’s match is being telecast. This encourages more customers to come in to watch the local team’s matches.
These bars try to focus more on the experience and not merely on telecasting the matches. As not all customers who come into these bars are sports oriented, they give equal importance to the level of service and offering they have apart from the viewing experience itself.
The key elements of a sports bar
- Sports based themes—the sports bar should focus on themes that have mass appeal in India. So the focus should be primarily on cricket and other popular sports like football and F1.
- Distinctive design features and decor— Every bar should have its own characteristic and the main attraction is the visual appeal of the design and layout of these bars.
- The large collection of sports memorabilia that is displayed at the bars is a big attraction and adds great value to the place. The more authentic the memorabilia the better. Even Hard Rock Cafe does the same with musicians memorabilia displayed all around the place.
- The location of the sports itself is very important. The bar should be located at a high profile location. The bar should be located at a location which is close to both high profile residential area and also offices.
- It is also important to take into account the traffic conditions in this area and the income levels of residential areas near to the intended location of the bar.
- Getting in celebrities and sportsmen into the bars is an important promotional activity. A sports bar get into a tie-up with celebs and athletes as these events would give them enough media coverage during their appearances at these bars.
- The waiters and bartenders uniform is also designed to fit the mood and decor of these bars. They all wear uniform which look like sports jerseys with the company logo their number and name written at the back ala sportsmen.
- Some of these bars sell merchandize of the sporting clubs they are involved with.
- Some stores which have garnered a fan following of sorts can also sell their own bars merchandize to their loyal customers.
- Apart from providing liquor and telecasting live matches on high resolution televisions and screens, a sports bar also has to focus on providing a wide variety of cuisines
- The pricing should be reasonable and affordable and each bar should have its own signature dish
- In order to improve the experience of the customers all sports bars should maintain a high ratio of personnel to customers. This would mean that the customers are tended to quickly.
- Also the training given to the service personnel and the bartenders should be of the highest order to keep up the high class image of these bars.
- Having private cabins in your offering is beneficial. Though a large number of people come to sports bars to get immersed in the match along with a large crowd and get a live match feeling, a certain group of customers still would like to have their privacy. This where the private cabins come in handy.
Changing Indian Consumption Habits
Among Indians eating out is a popular activity. Every year Indians spend over INR 350 billion on eating out in restaurants, fast food joints, bars etc. Eating out is a very popular activity while attending other functions. It is estimated that Indians spend INR 350 billion eating out annually. Of this organized establishment’s account for only INR 20 billion. International fast food chains such as Subway, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut are found in shopping malls and near cinema theatres. The “well-off” in urban areas are increasingly eating out in coffee shops, malls or retail stores. Lounge bars are the latest trend in urban areas and are frequented by young professionals, successful executives and single women in their late 20’s. This trend began in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata and will no doubt spread to other urban areas. Among the “affluent”, clubs are becoming popular. In addition to many recreational Facilities they are upgrading their food facilities and can compete with some of the finest restaurants or hotels of India. The new in thing are the sports bars which are mushrooming in different corners of the country. People who are interested in sports or like to be associated with sports go to these places. These bars are frequented by students, young professionals and executives most often.
Table 1 Number of On-trade Establishments by Type 2004-2008
Source: Trade interviews, Euromonitor International estimates
Table 13 RetailConsumerExpenditure on Alcoholic Drinks 2004-2009
Source: Euromonitor InternationalNote: 2009 data is forecast
Sports Bars Target Segment:
The customers who visit sports bars are segments into five different groups,
- Young Professionals
- Successful executives
- Sports Enthusiast/Fan
Men and women between the age of 21-25 who are either studying or unemployed fall under this segment. This segment of customers come to a sports bar just to hang out with their friends, enjoy the ambience and enjoy the food and liquor services provided by the bar. This customer comes into sports bars with a group of friends both male and female, and all within the same age group. These people get pocket money from their parents and hence are not spendthrifts. However, portions of this group come from very affluent families, and have no limit on their expenditure. This target segments are very trendy and are very seldom loyal. They are attracted to special offers and discounts and look for these offers availability before going to a place. Offers like happy hours of buy one get one free attract this segment of people. They are generally seen before the peak hours as discounted prices are available at this time.
These people are in the age group of 24-30. They have a decent amount of disposable income and like to indulge in activities which help them distress after work. They often come in after work to unwind. They come in either with their colleagues or other friends. These groups can have people from different age groups. They come in to watch the matches as well as to just sit and chat with their friends or colleagues.
The people in this segment generally fall under the age group of 30-45. They have already arrived in life and belong to a high income segment. These people often come in just for a drink to catch-up with their friends over a few drinks or with their colleagues to discuss business offline. These people often consume foreign liquor and generally have time to watch only important matches.
This target group accounts for a third of the revenue generated by the sports bars. They are big sports fans and follow their favourite sports passionately. They belong to different age groups and can be students, young professionals or successful executives. This group of sports enthusiast t
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