Decathlon India: Bringing Decathlonians towards a ‘Perpetual Vision’ Mindset


Reading time: 7 minutes


By Ceci Yip

Sangita PADIYAR  

Leader of Decathlon Exchange India

Joben JOSEPH  

Explore Leader at Decathlon India

COVID-19 has brought a huge impact to Decathlon India. With the temporary closure of stores and warehouses and the unavailability of physical meetings, the team still demonstrated their agility and collective strength to adapt the Vision locally and turn it into actions.


Sangita and Joben are both the Vision Relays in India, together they form a perfect team – one to inspire, one to execute. Sangita is the Leader of Decathlon Exchange. She gives training to people and brings teams together. Joben is the Explore Leader, and his target is to get 1.5 billion Indians to play sports. The 5 Vision targets serve as the directions for transformation in India. Sangita works on inspiring people in order for them to make it happen, while Joben considers that Vision is already his job. Steve DYKES, Leader of Decathlon India, has planned it in such a way that Sangita and Joben can complement each other, like Yin and Yang.


Alongside the schema of 10 year vision – 5 year strategy – 2 year action plan, Decathlon India values the co-creation of a yearly challenge at the country level. Since 2014, the leaders in India gather during the Leaders’ Meeting every November and co-write the country challenge for the following year, with a strong belief in collective intelligence and Vision as guiding principles. In the second meeting in May, leaders come together again for a mid-term review.

The challenge gives them a direction for their strategies in a more short-term and realistic way. Teammates also make use of it to write their individual missions and local projects. As it is written in a bottom-up and collective approach, Decathlonians in India share the ownership and motivation of achieving it.

Physical Leaders’ Meetings were unable to be organised this year, so they were held digitally. In May, Charlie Felgate, the Vision Leader for Decathlon United presented the Vision to all the leaders in India. As for the meeting in November, the organising committee decided to cut the elephant into pieces and spread the inspiration and events across 6 weeks digitally.


India Inspires V2 took place on 29th October 2020, it was a full-day digital inspiration conference from 9 am to 6 pm, engaging both internal and external speakers to talk about the topics linked to the 5 Vision targets and beyond, such as digital, innovation, sustainability and purpose.

The idea first emerged as an inspirational session in the Leaders’ Meeting in November. Later, the organising committee realised the physical meeting was impossible to organise due to Covid, so they changed it into a digital conference to engage not only the leaders, but to inspire all 4,000-4,500 Decathlonians in India. The event was open to all, even the local factory partners in India and the global Decathlon network received the invitation.

India Inspires V1 came about in November 2015 as an action linked to the Vision co-creation process. With the previous experience, the organising committee succeeded to organise V2 with flying colours. In three weeks’ time, all the preparation has been done with zero expense, because of the solidarity among the people. After the event, a survey was sent to all participants to ask for their key takeaways and concrete actions that could be taken.


Joben believes that actions are as important as inspirations, because people will get demotivated if they can’t see concrete actions. Therefore, he starts projects and actions in India, and teammates know he’s the one for execution and to connect with. 

Linked with Vision target #5 – Inclusive, Joben joined hands with Supriya MAMGAIN to create Decathlon Innovation Lab. Supriya was a start-up founder before working for Decathlon and she is now a Vision Relay for Delhi. They co-created the Lab and opened it to any start-up or agency to apply its technology or expertise to help solve challenges for Decathlon India, such as fast shopping, sustainability, and community engagement etc. 

When all warehouses and stores in India were closed due to Covid, nothing could be sold for a month, so Joben and his team created another project to find new ways to sell. They sent a questionnaire to all 5,000 teammates in India asking one question: “Decathlon is now shut down guys, do you have any idea how we can sell our products?” They got 300 responses, among them there were 20 people raising their hands to work on it voluntarily. This team was formed in March and they are still having regular meetings. Nobody’s getting extra pay nor it’s part of their KPIs, but they were doing it so that Decathlon could survive.

It’s generally the worst time in the world, but you should launch the Vision now, not when Covid finishes. Now is the best because people really mean it and want to make a difference even if it’s tough. If it’s not now then when? If it’s not us then who?

Joben JOSEPH, Explore Leader at Decathlon India


Joben believes that Decathlon is not changing sports per se in India, but is actually changing one Indian at a time. During the 11 years in the company, he has seen customers being connected with Decathlon and going out of Decathlon stores differently. People describe Decathlonians as smiling, honest, sporty, inspiring and motivating. All these are the positive attributes to inspire others.

The goal of Decathlon India is to get Indians to play, because once they start playing, differences in religions, rich or poor will not be important anymore. Sports break all these barriers. Instead of Decathlon being an inspirer, the team believes in creating the network with external partners and letting them inspire each other. This change is expected in the long term that all Decathlonians will be in the Vision mode perpetually. The team believes the Vision will inspire Indians to move and to make this world a better place.

“I’m so proud by the way Sangita and Joben have taken this topic to inspire the team. In May, we launched our #save2020 with the team and everyone rolled up their sleeves to try and satisfy our customers and users. I have never seen anything like it with over a million euros shipped from home ! However, we knew that saving 2020 was not the full story and we had to dream too about life after 2021. Hats off to Sangita, Joben and all the teams for the way they have federated the team around such important vision points. Now, let’s make it happen in 2021!!”

Steve DYKES, Leader of Decathlon India