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World's largest sports goods major eyes India

business Updated: Jun 12, 2007 11:47 IST
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The world's largest sports goods maker is eyeing a tie-up with an upcoming ski resort in the western Himalayas in India.

Amer Sports has also supplied costly equipment to a group of Indians who were in Finland for an advanced ski instructor's training course.

"We would definitely be interested in a 100 percent equity venture or a joint venture" with the Himalayan Ski Village (HSV), a 350-million euro venture American billionaire Alfred Ford is creating in the Manali region of Himachal Pradesh, a company official here said.

"With our diversified portfolio, we could start with a strong rental programme, an essential feature at any ski resort," Max Alfthan, vice president for communications at Helsinki-based Amer Sports, told IANS.

The company posted sales of euro 1.7 million during 2006 with its portfolio of Salomon and Atomic winter sports equipment, Wilson ball sports equipment, Precor fitness equipment, and Suunto timing equipment for various sports.

While many of these brands, barring Wilson and Atomic might be unfamiliar in India, the proposed tie-up with HSV could see the others coming into the Indian market.

Amer Sports, however, is no stranger to India, being the largest supplier of its range of Koflach range of insulated boots to the Indian Army.

The company chose its Atomic range skis and boots to equip the 40 Indians who have just completed an intensive three-week training course in the Lapland area of northern Finland above the Arctic Circle and will be employed by HSV once its resort is up and running in 2008-09.

This kitting out was not a mere symbolic gesture as the company provided each skier with equipment worth 1,700 euros -- for a total of 68,000 euros.

"Atomic's cooperation with the Indian skiers was a good beginning. If you can be in partnership from the beginning, it can be a really good opportunity to move ahead," Alfthan contended.

Amer Sports is just one of the many Finnish firms, a semi-government organisation and even a municipality that would be closely involved with the Manali resort, an association that came about following a chance meeting in New Delhi between HSV managing director John Simms and Seppo Keranen, who heads Finpro, the Finland Trade office in India.

So enthused was Keranen with the project that he quickly brought on board Naturpolis, the semi-government Nordic Business Centre located in the municipality of Kuusamo that includes the Ruka ski resort.

Thereafter, the Levi ski resort in Lapland, which is also an Alpine Skiing World Cup venue, was also brought into the loop.

This led to the creation of FINEC or Finnish Ecological Construction for India that will focus on developing ski and leisure resorts in India, explained Ville Skinnari, the Naturpolis director for business development.

"A series of workshops is planned in Finland between now and October, after which a 'matchmaking' seminar will be held in India in October to put the final elements in place and formally launch FINEC in December," Skinnari added.

Speaking about Amer Sports' specific involvement with the Manali resort, Alfthan said this would include the establishment of a rental shop with some 1,000 skis and related equipment like boots and jackets.

"The idea is to build a pyramid of entry-level, middle-level and high-end equipment," Alfthan explained.

The skis retail in the range of 260-750 euros but would be made available to HSV customers at a fraction of the cost.

"At the end of every season, we will sell the equipment at knock-down prices and bring in new equipment for the new season. That's how the rental business works at ski resorts," the official added.