To understand and put things in perspective, let us first understand the category of ‘active sportswear’ in India. It wouldn’t be exaggeration to say that this category in India is directly a product of western culture fan following. Active sportswear in India came as an accepted norm for clothing with the advent of changing lifestyle where people got accustomed to more of a morning, evening, leisure walk, and gym culture. With a very thin line between sportswear and casualwear, active sportswear is more of making sportswear look chic and wearable.
Taking credit here would be international brands like Nike, Reebok, PUMA, adidas, Woodland and Fila to name few, who through their advertisements and other below the-line promotional activities made it ‘cool’ for the youth to dress in active sportswear without bothering about the occasion. The tangent towards homegrown national brands making any impact here is dismissal. Until date, we cannot truly boast of national brands in India for sportswear category. International brands still satiate the need for good quality and designs.
Legends like Nike, adidas and Reebok have set the trend for other brands to follow. PUMA is seen getting active with its launches and recently we had Umbro launching its range of active sportswear in the country. Earlier in 2013, Columbia Sportswear Company, a leading innovator in the active outdoor apparel, footwear, accessories and equipment industries, signed an agreement with Chogori India Retail (CIRL), based in New Delhi, to serve as the company’s exclusive distributor in India.
Likewise, Manchester United, which was introduced in India by Future Lifestyle, too is witnessing a growing popularity. The growth in this category is evident with the fact that just in a year’s time, practically each brand in this category has grown multifold. According to PUMA, the total annual retail turnover of the brand stood at Rs1,05,000 (Rs1,050 crore) between January and December 2012. This figure saw almost a 50 percent growth in 2013 with the turnover standing at Rs1,45,000 (Rs1450 crore).
The total retail space grew from 3,25,000 sq.ft. to 3,90,000 sq.ft. in 2013. Indus League’s Manchester United saw a phenomenal growth with turnover standing at `2,673 (in INR lakh) from January to December 2013 as against `1995 (in INR lakh) in 2012. The total sq.ft. space grew from 6,406 to 9,242.
All the brands operating in this category are aware of the need to be in sync with the tastes, preferences and needs of their customers, thus developing a personal rapport with them. The advertisements and other activities are planned in a way to foster a sense of belonging to a close-knit community as well. Be it social media or through various apps, the brands ensure that they are in constant touch with their target audience and patrons.
To talk about Puma, one of the leading brands in India, the company aunched PUMATRAC – a unique running application for the iPhone. It is now the #d1 downloaded running and fitness application available in the market currently. Incorporating a user friendly design with pre-loaded Tictrac technology, PUMATRAC analyses how external conditions affect the running performance. PUMATRAC requires little to no input of data in order to receive these insights, a differentiation factor from other apps in the market. Instead, the app predominantly uses data available based on specific environmental factors such as: moon phase, weather, location, altitude, music playlist, time of the day, day of week, season and social media activity.
PUMATRAC seamlessly integrates data to deliver personalised, actionable insights. Similarly, Nike has a Nike+ iPod app as well though all of these things are more or less restricted to compliment running or training shoes. As active sportswear apparel also gains momentum in India, we shall be witnessing developments in this area too.
Talking about sportswear in general, Technopak Advisors share, “The sportswear apparel market in India is estimated to be `2,200 crore in 2013, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13 percent over the next decade.” Citing the driving forces for the growth of Indian sportswear market, Technopak points out the following reasons:
Shift in the Indian consumer lifestyle Case study of Attiva Pulling a page from the experience of an Indian homegrown active sportswear brand, Abhay Chhapia, owner of Attiva, shares, “If you take sportswear manufacturers in India, you can count the good ones on your fingertips. A country as big as India is being serviced for quality active sportswear by a handful of companies.”
He further explains, “Around 20 percent of India’s active sportswear requirements are met by foreign brands such as Nike, adidas, Reebok, PUMA, Fila, Speedo, etc. For the balance 80 percent, there is really not much to choose from.” Witnessing such a huge gap in this category, Chhapia decided to enter the market and launch Attiva.
He shares, “When I came to know these facts in 2012, I decided that I need to enter this segment in a professional way. Carvico S.p.A., Italy, which produces the best swimwear, sportswear and lingerie fabrics in the world, was with us. We only had to make a manufacturing unit to produce world-class sports garments. Even though, we are still in our infancy, but we have been able to make inroads among the best sportswear retailers.”
Elaborating on the production facilities, he says, “We have been the first to identify the need to protect children and adults from harmful sunrays when exposed to sun. Hence, we introduced a product SLEEVE made from UV-protected fabric, it is like wearing a cover on your hands.” He further explains, “In case the garment is to be used indoor, we provide moisture wicking fabric to the garment, or, the garment is to be used for outdoor sport, we give moisture wicking with UV 50+ sun protection fabric.
If the garment is to be used for swimming pools, we offer chlorineproof fabric garment. In case the garment is to be used for beach, we give UV 50+ protection fabric garment. In case the garment is to be used for heavy exercise, we have muscle compression fabric garment.” to greater fitness awareness and health consciousness
- Non-cricket sports also getting popular
- Increase in government initiatives in sports infrastructure and increase in corporate sponsorships
- Increasing positioning of the sportswear brands as lifestyle Products
Changing market dynamics
It is fashionable today to be sporting sportswear. Brands like Puma, Nike, adidas, Reebok, Umbro, etc. Have taken a lead in setting trends. Wearing a sporty apparel is the in-thing for teenagers and youth today, and this has led to an increase in demand for sportswear in India. Gradually, people are beginning to understand the attributes like dry-fit, stretchable, odour free, etc.
Abhay Chhapia, Chief Managing Director, Abhay Industries shares that the market from being only 100 percent cotton in sportswear, has changed over the last 4–5 years and people want dryfit garments for sportswear. However, the hitch here according to Chhapia, “Unfortunately, people in general have no clue as to what exactly is dry fit.
Because of this, the cheap 100 percent polyester T-shirts are offered as dry fit and people are buying it.” The normal dry fit garments are good till 10-12 washes and after that, their fabric becomes regular polyester as the chemical gets washed off. On the most recent trend seen is the emergence of digitally printed tees and tops. He shares, “These also are made from 100 percent polyester fabrics as digital printing in India is done 90 percent on polyester fabrics only.”