Hockey, the country's national game, is fast emerging as the pastime of choice, if sale of expensive and imported hockey sticks in the sport's hub Jalandhar is an indication.
With corporate support in the form of Sahara and the launch of World Hockey Series (WSH) by Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) in collaboration with Nimbus Sports, hockey has turned glamorous and possessing a hockey stick fast becoming a style statement..
Pakistan's sports industry is gaining the most, with its renowned brand Malik witnessing a massive spurt in the sale of sticks in India.
"The sale of branded hockey sticks Malik manufactured in Pakistan has witnessed a steep hike in the recent months. Sales have been good," said Vipan Preenja, owner of Marshall Exports. His company has the sole distribution rights for the Malik brand in India. "In a little more than nine months, we have sold more than 2,400 expensive composite hockey sticks."
He added that today every professional player wanted to play with composite hockey sticks. These sticks were not only light-weight, but were also conducive to playing on the Astroturf. Preenja said the composite stick was a mixture of three materials, fibre glass, carbon and kevlar.
"Jalandhar is the only city in India, where hockey sticks are manufactured. However, we still lack the technology to manufacture composite hockey sticks. Therefore, manufacturers import unbranded composite sticks from Pakistan to sell them under their own brand name," he claimed.
The price of Malik hockeys sticks ranges from Rs 1,200 to 8,000. The quality and hence the cost depended on the ratio of carbon in the stick. There is annual demand of 20,000-25,000 thousand composite hockey sticks in India. Since the Malik brand is now available in India, most professional players would opt for the brand, which is well known at the international level.
Pakistan has emerged as hub of composite hockey sticks. Even international brands like Adidas prefer to outsource manufacturing to Pakistan's companies situated in Sialkot, Preenja said. For brand promotion, he has roped in three renowned Indian hockey players Prabhat Tirkey, Davinder Valmiki and Aijub Ekka. More than 50 international players are playing with Malik brand.
Preenja added that exporting hockey sticks from India was a smooth affair. He said the consignment came through train and he paid 20 per cent import duty on it. Even the quality of wooden hockey sticks supplied by Malik from Pakistan is much better than the Indian made sticks, he claimed.
When contacted, president of Khel Udyog Sangh Ravinder Dhir said: "There is high cost involved in setting up a unit for manufacturing composite sticks. Raw material is also not available easily, so industrialists prefer to get it imported from Pakistan.
"The technology to make composite hockey sticks is also not available and huge investments in its research & development is needed. We need government support," Dhir added.