Sialkot sports industry has been producing sporting goods for over a decade and is one of the industries through which Pakistan has gained global recognition. The industry initially commenced with production of sporting goods involving wood e.g. cricket bats, hockey sticks, tennis, badminton rackets etc. Over the years and influx of modern equipment, the Sialkot sports industry is now able to manufacture any product and in any material. The industry has produced for renowned global brands such as Adidas, Nike, Puma, Select, Lotto, Wilson, Micassa etc. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,000 units operating in Sialkot, most of which can be classified under SME. Few and larger units are known for soccer balls. Pakistan made a name for itself by producing the most advance soccer ball for the FIFA Word Cup of 2014.
Pakistani soccer balls other than FIFA are being used in various leagues in Europe. The Brazzuca has been honored as the most advance ball ever made for any world cup event. Pakistan has been recognized for quality of raw material and finishing of the products which remain in high export demand throughout the year. Pakistan alone caters to 70 percent of global supply of soccer balls which is estimated to bring in US$210 million to US$250 million each year. Pakistan has used this as an advantage and produces sporting textiles which include trousers, sweat shirts, gloves, track suits, karate kits, stockings, pajamas, casual wear etc . The garment industry of Sialkot alone pulls US$100 million each year in terms of exports. Sports exports from Sialkot alone are estimated at US$450 million each year.
At the face, the sports industry of Sialkot may be recognized, there are pitfalls which must be highlighted and where the government needs to function in order to further improve of the export potential. The road infrastructure in Sialkot is poor and there are no proper road ways or links to enable heavy traffic. Sialkot city is often choked where traffic movement is further slowed due to poor infrastructure and road ways. The workforce in Sialkot is primarily either engaged in sports, leather goods or the medical industry. There is hardly any focus on vocational training and people are expected to be employed and learn their skills on the job. Most of the businesses in Sialkot operate through shops, homes, garages etc converted into makeshift factories and are used by larger manufacturers for basic value addition at low cost. On such complain from the SME sports sector to be incentivized to enable them by equipment and move to larger premises for capacity enhancement, unfortunately such financing is hard to come by.
Competition is tough as SME’s are in constant lookout for contracts of larger firms. There are some small businesses who act as agents and would try and fetch international orders without having any manufacturing facility and sub contract these orders to manufacturers. This arrangement could be done through accepted invoice or back to back letter of credit arrangement. Having international exposure and experience as to what is required and accepted in the export market, the Sialkot industry from large to small manufacturers are articulate, participate in trade fairs and often attend meetings abroad in order to obtain business and orders. The key challenge for every manufacturer in Sialkot is to maintain their buyers and ensure they receive repeat orders. The culture in Sialkot is such where people learn tricks of the trade through working for few years, collect and save money and start their own businesses. This is one of the reason why one would find multiple small businesses often selling homogenous products and offering the same kind of services and product suite. It is very unfortunate that there is no focus on developing of sports in Pakistan hence participation of Pakistan in Olympics has been to its minimum.
Less sports activities
Sports facilities are in dire state and stadiums remain empty partially throughout the year. According to business community of Sialkot, development of sports and the sense of representing Pakistan in the global scale would increase sales of sporting goods in Pakistan atleast 3 times the export base from Sialkot. It is disappointing if Pakistan can produce the best soccer balls, the country does not have any teams being represented in FIFA.
One of the constraints in Pakistan is budget allocation for developing of sports. Sports is mainly done with own initiatives of various clubs and trainers. People who train most do so not with the motivation to compete on a global scale rather for entertainment and fitness. One such example is golf. With various golf clubs in Pakistan, those who play golf are mostly senior executives. One would not find people in teens and twenties playing golf and a platform where by people can participate in tournaments internationally e.g. the PGA tour. There are several tennis courts in Pakistan but the only success story in the field of tennis has been Aisam-ul-Haq. People who play sports and regularly visit clubs and various sporting facilities are few. In Pakistan, people use clubs mainly to socialize and enjoy the eatery.
Another reason why there is low orientation towards sports is because parents push their children towards studies rather than run a mix between sports and studies. Children as they grow tend to lose interest in physical sports in favor of online gaming and video games on Xbox and Sony Playstation. Schools allocate only 1-2 hours each week for sports which is never enough. There are no professional institutions, which groom players in various sports and nominate them to represent Pakistan on an international platform. Sports secondly is not considered a career in Pakistan other than cricket hence is frown upon if one choose this line of profession. Sports has enormous potential in Pakistan that can flourish with the right focus. Improvement of sports in Pakistan will eventually boost GDP and business of Sialkot.