India is becoming increasingly health-conscious, and Indians, irrespective of age, sex and demographic, are turning to sports, outdoors and adventure activities. For modern India, fitness and sports are not prerogatives of professional sportsperson anymore – it is a lifestyle. This change in lifestyle preferences has also heralded a boost to the sportswear industry in India. Products like apparel and accessories, and variety of sports gear and equipment now tops priority in shopping lists around the country. This stands especially true for sports shoes or athletic footwear — how can one partake in sports/fitness activities without proper footwear? Isn’t it the prime priority of any fitness/adventure activity?
The Indian athletic footwear segment is witnessing a steady boom. According to the statistics portal Statista, revenue in the athletic footwear segment amounts to US$3,232 million in 2018. The market is expected to grow annually at a CAGR of 13.6 percent over 2018 to 2021. Globally, the United States clocked the most revenue at USD 16,143 million in 2018.
A report by the online portal MBA Rendezvous documents that India’s sports footwear segment in general caters to men, women and kids, and while men’s footwear comprises 55 percent of the entire industry, the women’s and kids’ share take up 30 percent and 15 percent of respectively. Like most other fashion segments, athletic footwear is dominated by the men’s market. The women’s market has traditionally not witnessed the same level of growth as the men’s market but, especially in the last few years, this market has registered an increased demand.
As a whole, the athletic shoes market in India has traditionally been dominated by the big international brands, aptly named the ‘Big Five’ — Reebok, Adidas, Nike, Puma and Lotto. Most of these brands entered the country in the 1990s and in the years that followed established their presence through a flood of local franchisees. Even today, the sportswear market, as a whole, is dominated by these four brands, global players with others such as Under Armour, Fila, Lotto, Skechers, etc., collectively battling for the remaining market share.
The last few years have also witnessed the emergence of numerous home grown players and celebrity brands who are progressively absorbing the market tendencies to cater to the needs of the consumers. This is a clear indication that the Indian market for sports/athletic footwear is on the rise. “The sports footwear segment comprises of big international players, local Indian brands and celebrity owned brands. Most of the major international brands are now present in the country. However, there is still a large unorganized segment which cannot be accounted for in terms of size,” says Vishal Gupta, Director – Retail, Puma India.
Driven by the country’s growing wealth, changing lifestyles, and rising urbanisation, an increasing number of Indian consumers are becoming more health conscious and are adding new health and wellness routines to their hectic lifestyles as a result. This growing awareness of being fit, healthy and the need to exercise has been the instrumental in pushing the boundaries of athletic sportswear in the recent past. This has led to a massive increase in action in the segment, cultivated a stiff competition and have compelled brands to continually adopt new strategies, shell out new products and collections, etc to retain their market position.
“The Indian youth is at the helm of this revolution. The fitness revolution that they are driving by waking up to better living and eating is directly propelling this industry to grow. Access to gyms and decent roads/parks is enticing an increasing number of people take up sports such as running and cross fit, which in turn is helping the sports shoes category flourish,” says Prashant Desai, Founder and Director D:FY.
Driving the sportswear trend further into the masses are Indian pop culture icons, who are becoming self-proclaimed spokespersons of the fitness movement that is sweeping the country by storm. The proliferation of international brands represented by sports and Bollywood stars have kept sportswear in the public eye fuelling this drive as well. Sports-inspired footwear is also registering growth in view of the growing culture of casualwear at workplaces.
The Road Ahead
The sports shoe industry in India is definitely gaining traction in the recent years, given people’s awareness and how conscious they are about their health. This has led to a slew of new players, both national and international, to enter the race. Most of these new players bank on affordable price points to dive into the masses, mostly in smaller cities and towns. These brands buttressing on online retailers like Amazon India, Flipkart, Jabong and Myntra to penetrate into the Indian market.
Smaller towns and cities are also emerging as top consumer hubs for athletic and sports inspired footwear and this demand is only expected to rise in the coming future. “Between 2015 and 2016, sportswear in metros and Tier II and III cities grew close to 80 percent. The footwear category grew 100 percent for metro and Tier II cities and there’s also a strong demand we see from Tier III which grew over 110 percent,” says Arun Sirdeshmukh, Head of Fashion at Amazon India.