- With its performance enhancement suits, expects revenue to double to US$138K
- Aims to tap into US retail market, but focus on penetrating influencers first
AFTER several years spent on trials and designs, SportBoleh Sdn Bhd, a startup specialising in high-performance sports products, is ready to take its maiden and flagship product Lila Exogen to the global market.
Having registered about US$250,000 in revenue in 2014, it is aiming to double this to US$500,000 by year-end.
The company, which sold about 100 Lila Exogen suits in 2014, aims to sell at least 500 suits by the end of this year.
This steep increase in sales isn’t enough for founder Joseph Dolcetti, who believes the suit has what it takes to hit the global retail market – and when that happens, sales could reach tens or hundreds of thousands, or even millions.
“Amateur golfers wanting to improve their golf swings, joggers wanting to improve their time or even those with back pains, could find the suit, or part of the suit – such as the forearm sleeves – very useful,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) in Kuala Lumpur recently.
The Lila Exogen suit is touted as a multi-function, high-performance suit designed to help athletes improve their performance.
These lightweight suits, which come with features like lumbar postural and compression support, also allow athletes to train on specific areas of the body.
This is done by placing specially designed weights with Velcro-like material at the back, onto the Lila Exogen suit, or related products such as forearm sleeves, shorts, upper arm sleeves, calf sleeves, full-arm sleeves, and others.
For example, if a badminton player wants to train his smashes or backhand, he can put on the forearm sleeves, with weights attached, during his training. After several weeks of this, he may find he has strengthened his smashes or backhand.
“Should the badminton player put on the entire Lila Exogen suit during training, over time, we expect the player’s overall performance, in terms of speed, agility and strength, to improve significantly,” claimed Dolcetti.
Although the Lila Exogen suit is not widely available, well-known Malaysian athletes are already using it, including badminton star Lee Chong Wei and world-class squash player Nicole David.
According to SportsBoleh head of design and manufacturing Tracie Sudesh, one of the challenges the company faced was designing the Lila Exogen suit in a way that ‘performance met style.’
“When [Lee] Chong Wei saw our newly designed Lila Exogen suit, he told us that this one is far, far nicer looking than the previous one,” he added.
Step by step
SportBoleh wants to hit the retail market, but Dolcetti (pic) believes this shouldn’t be done by approaching retailers first. “First, we need to penetrate the influencer market,” he said.
To do this, the company is currently in talks with top athletes and professional sports teams in the United States and New Zealand.
“We are in talks with at least one NFL (National Football League) team in the United States on the possibility of buying our suits, which retail for US$950 per full suit, in bulk,” Dolcetti claimed.
“Part of our goal is to target elite and top development athletes first, then we will scale,” he added.
SportBoleh will also be taking part in the upcoming National Strength and Conditioning Association Conference in Orlando, Florida, where it will showcase and sell its Lila Exogen suits and related products.
It is also in the midst setting up a sales team in the United States, said Dolcetti.
Data key to success
To tap global influencers, the performance of Lila Exogen suits needs to be backed by research and data.
“That’s why we are working closely with some of the top researchers in the world,” said Dolcetti.
SportsBoleh has established research partnerships with the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and the Sport Performance Research Institute of New Zealand (Sprinz).
It is working with Dr John Cronin of AUT and Dr Kim Simperingham of both AUT and Sprinz on areas such as sprints and movement mechanics in field sports; serves and changes of direction in tennis; injury rehabilitation; fast bowling in cricket; and speed of punches and kicks in martial arts.
Dolcetti said that Lila Exogen suits are also undergoing trials with the New Zealand rugby team, New Zealand Warriors (of the National Rugby League), New Zealand Cricket, Auckland Rugby Union and Chiefs Super Rugby.
In Malaysia, the company is also going into a research partnership with the National Sports Institute, where the national wushu team will try out the suit.
“We are targeting Lila Exogen suits to be incorporated as part of their sports science technology warm-up protocol to be implemented for the SEA Games in early June,” he added.
Dolcetti said that by the end of this year, the suits will be incorporated with heart-rate monitor sensors that will allow athletes, or even their coaches, to track their performance in real time.
“We will also be creating a mobile app that will give users access to vital information like how to use the suit, how to place the weights, as well as to track their performance and progression,” he added.
The weights – which are shaped like two-dimensional tear-drops or leaves – can be attached and detached easily, and have been designed to serve different purposes and train different muscles when attached in different directions.
“Take the forearm sleeve, for example,” said Dolcetti. “There are a few ways to place the weights – one can train speed, while another way can train strength.”
By developing a mobile app and incorporating sensors into its Lila Exogen suit and related products, SportBoleh’s plans are also in line with Digital Malaysia’s DM354 Roadmap.
Digital Malaysia is a national programme that rolled out in 2012 and is aimed at transforming the country into a ‘digital economy’ by 2020.
The DM354 Roadmap, unveiled early last year, comprised interventions to bridge existing gaps and accelerate growth.
The Roadmap aims to generate new growth areas within five selected ICT sub-sectors to drive faster results. These sub-sectors are ICT services, e-commerce, ICT manufacturing, ICT trade, as well as content and media.
SportBoleh’s plans to market its products in global retail markets can help drive growth in ICT services in the long run, especially in the area of exports – which incidentally, is one of the five steps outlined to propel growth.
Penetrating the US sports market
Selling high-performance sports products to US professional sports teams or leagues may be a daunting prospect, but Dolcetti doesn’t feel it will be that difficult.
No surprise, given his own experience in the sports industry. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, he was the strength and conditioning coach for the KL Dragons basketball team, and before that, the athlete conditioning head coach for the National Sports Council from 2000 to 2008.
In fact, before moving to Malaysia, he was the conditioning coach for the Vancouver Grizzlies basketball team in the NBA. The team is now known as the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Our challenge is not so much about getting our products to these professional sports teams and players. We have the knowledge and network to tap into the market.
“What we need now is to have our products backed by solid research data,” he said.
“Also, for the past year or so, we haven’t really gone ‘all out’ to market or to sell, so we believe this can fly once we start building our team regionally and globally,” he added.
Manufacturing 500 or 1,000 suits a year should not be an issue for any company. But would its production capacity be able to keep up if and when SportBoleh scales its sales and operations?
“Based on our understanding with our manufacturers, it should not be a problem. I think, from the last time we checked, our manufacturers can easily produce 20,000 units,” said Tracie (pic).
The production of the suit and its related products are divided into a few parts, with some parts produced in Malaysia, and others in China.
Sports social network ONz on cloud nine
Joel Neoh's KFit aims to make keeping fit fun and social
Many tech startup gems in Malaysia: Proficeo
For more technology news and the latest updates, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn or Like us on Facebook.