Sara-Trans founder and CEO Jasbeer Siingh.
Indian music industry leader makes new inroads with name-brand goods
When the Sara-Trans Group was founded in 1989, the Indian manufacturer’s single focus was creating bags and cases for markets around the world. Later, the company would take an equal interest in what the world could offer India. In a country representing more than a million square miles, nearly 1.3 billion people, and 122 major languages, Sara-Trans has become the closest thing to a meeting point for Indian commerce in music products. While expanding its bag and case business into a huge variety of products for the music, travel, and sporting goods sectors, the company has also used its music industry connections to build an expansive network in both distribution and retail. Its Reemal distribution branch, created in 1991, introduced India to brands including Fender, Charvel, Gator, Vic Firth, Gretsch, and Line 6—while its Onstage retail chain, established five years later, brought modern, well-stocked music stores to every major Indian city and many smaller ones. With a tagline to match the scope of the business—“Taking excellence to the world… bringing home the best”—Sara-Trans continues to signal that there’s no corner of the industry it’s afraid to tackle.
“The word that best defines us is ‘proactive,’” says Sara-Trans Group founder and CEO Jasbeer Siingh. “We believe in the ‘Indian Dream,’ and we’re committed to being a premier catalyst in India’s growth story.”
While its network now touches most every region in India, Sara-Trans was launched from the Noida district southeast of New Delhi. Short for New Ohkla Industrial Development Authority, the city was set up in a push toward urbanization and is now one of India’s hubs for technology and higher education. At its Noida bag and case factory, Sara-Trans picked up the district’s ethos with an ever more refined operation, streamlining processes and upgrading machinery toward a product line of international standards. Now billed as “Bag Crafters to the World,” Sara-Trans has captured seven straight annual awards from the Indian Ministry of Commerce for highest product turns nationwide, the most recent presented in October. “Our vision is to stay ahead in the global race for quality,” says Siingh. “A distinct identity, a commitment to quality merchandise, and continuous improvements to our product range—that’s what it takes to become an organization of the future.”
For Siingh, who started Sara-Trans as an offshoot of a family-owned industrial conglomerate, the bag and case business was only the start of a highly influential career in India’s music industry. To date, he’s served five years as president of the Indian Music Merchants Association, and four years as a member of the prestigious Export Promotion Council of India under the nation’s Ministry of Commerce. While his ventures now run the gamut from the production line to the retail counter, he considers them part of the same objective: building an infrastructure for Indian people to make and appreciate music—often from scratch. Outside formal business channels, Sara-Trans has been a force for organizing music classes, contests, and artist outreach efforts to connect aspiring musicians with opportunities to learn and perform. “Ushering positive changes into Indian markets is embedded in our ethos as we extend our footprints deeper into India,” says Siingh.
This effort rests in large part on the Reemal distribution business, a conduit to India for some of the world’s premiere musical instrument, accessory, and pro audio brands. With offices strategically located in Mumbai, Delhi, Noida, Pune, Bhiwandi, Kolkata, Bangalore, and Hyderabad, the operation has linked customers with products never before sold within India’s borders. As Siingh puts it: “Sara-Trans is seen as a coveted distributor for any international brand that wants to enter India. Brands across the globe that want to build their own success stories have asked us to take them under our wing. There are many brands we have developed and popularized right from zero in the Indian markets.”
Where Reemal leaves off, Sara-Trans’ Onstage division picks up, bringing name-brand merchandise into retail locations throughout the country. Combining modern-format stores with an understanding of Indian consumers, the chain is a market leader nationwide. In a separate effort in 2012, the company made headlines by opening Asia’s first all-Fender store on one of Kolkata’s major thoroughfares. Since then, Sara-Trans’ retail branch has expanded to the web with the OnStage Online e-commerce platform—part of what Siingh refers to as an “omni-channel approach.”
“Sara-Trans understands the soul of Indian customers,” he adds. “Onstage has been a pioneer in ‘out-of-the-box’ retail formats, connecting with a diverse and passionate community of Indian buyers. We’ve worked hard to successfully introduce a variety of products at the grass-roots level.”
So where can Sara-Trans go from here? According to Siingh, it starts with a series of strategic mergers and acquisitions made possible by the company’s many partnerships in the industry. “These M&As will initially focus on the brands distributed by Sara-Trans and will subsequently cover other categories and brands,” he says. The company is also using Exact Business Analytics, a sophisticated business analysis software package, to precisely map its distribution strategy, channeling products to match demand in growing markets. On the manufacturing side, plans call for further technological upgrades to its main factory—and for an additional factory to be sited in the south of India.
“We’ve worked to become a one-stop-shop for all music needs—as well as a ‘passage to India’ for key brands that want to make their mark here,” says Siingh. “We’ve investing in distribution, retail, and the web to gain an ever stronger presence in the industry. We can confidently say that we’ll keep adding feathers to our cap in the years to come.”
Subscribe to The Music Trades today!
NEXT PROFILE >>