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Inside the Indian sportswear industry

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India today is at par with wider global fitness trends. The booming economy and changing lifestyle preferences have compelled Indian consumers to be more health conscious and add new health and wellness routines to their hectic lifestyles. This trend has largely benefited the sportswear industry in India, which now is among the top in demand fashion segments of the country.

Inside the Indian sportswear industry
The booming economy and changing lifestyle preferences have compelled Indian consumers to be more health conscious and add new health and wellness routines to their hectic lifestyles

According to a research report published by Global Industry Analysts Inc., the global market for Sports and Fitness Clothing is projected to reach US $231.7 billion by 2024. The research also indicates that technological developments designed to improve comfort and performance has also led to the growth in sales of sports apparel. The report points out that the Asia-Pacific region is expected to be fastest growing region, with a CAGR of 6.9 percent over the forecast period. Sales came from emerging markets, such as India and Thailand, as well as the US, the world’s largest sportswear market.

The Indian Market

According to reports from various internet sources, the Indian sportswear market grew 22 percent from 2015 to 2016, outpacing the segment’s global increase of 7 percent.

As documented by a Euromonitor research, the sportswear market in India has grown from Rs. 24,000 crore in 2014 to Rs. 37,000 crore in 2016 at more than 50 percent over the past two years. A same study has shown a 23.7 percent CAGR for the 2011-16 period with a forecast of 11.3 percent for the 2016-2021 period.

Men’s wear comprises the biggest share of the Indian sportswear market followed by the women’s and kids’ segments. In the recent past, the women’s market is progressively showing positive signs of accelerated growth. “Women’s wear is the fastest growing segment in the sportswear industry in India now — both for the industry and for us. Earlier, it was highly underpenetrated, but now it’s a booming segment. The men’s segment continues to grow at a steady pace of 40 percent,” says Sandeep Mukim, Managing Director, Proline.

“While the men’s segment in sportswear is growing fast as numbers of sale, it is the women’s segment that is registering a higher growth percentage. This is due to the growing awareness of women for individual sports category like running, marathon, and other fitness activities. The kid’s segment is highly influenced by team sports – and the segment is growing fast along with the increasing popularity of cricket, football, etc.” says Mohit Prabhakar, GM, Nivia.

“For our brand, as also for the category as a whole, the growth is largely driven by the men’s category. The women’s and kids market has not grown at the same pace, largely for the need to be fashion-oriented and/or more colourful as opposed to the fact of being more functional and performance-driven. Also, given the same budget, women are likely to purchase more garments to match element of their wardrobe and hence are more likely to buy, say, 2 pieces of stretch leggings rather than 1 track bottom,” says Sakshi Juneja, Key Accounts Manager of Black Panther, a unit of Juneja Global.

“It is very difficult, almost impossible to accurately estimate the market size for sportwear, considering the fragmented nature of this particular industry and the overlapping categories such as lounge wear, athleisure and even sleepwear and undergarment brands vying for a slice of the activewear pie by styling themselves as sportwear brands. Added to this is the huge unorganized sector with a full-fledged and well-developed market for counterfeit merchandise of global brands, retailing brazenly through not only MBOs but also leading online portals,” she adds.

As a whole, the sportswear market in India has traditionally been dominated by the big international brands, aptly named the ‘Big Four’ — Reebok, Adidas, Nike and Puma. 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.

But, in the recent past, given the enthusiasm of consumers towards sports and sportswear in general, a slew of brands, both home grown and foreign, have mushroomed absorb the market tendencies to cater to the rising needs of the consumers. Indian brands, although young, have an edge over their international peers – the price segment in which they operate. “In the case of apparel, international bigwigs are growing at very slow rate compared to homegrown brands due to their high price points. Indian brands are creating huge demand due to their capability of manufacturing compatible quality in India and offering products at very affordable prices,” explains Mohit Prabhakar.

Of late, a legion of celebrity launched brands have surfaced in an attempt to cash in on the mammoth popularity they enjoy among the commonality. “With fitness fever gripping the nation, celebrities have also caught on to this trend. Bollywood stars Hrithik Roshan and Jacqueline Fernandez have launched their own sportswear brands which are gaining popularity amongst the general audience. However, for those who are more seriously into fitness, they still stick to more international and well-established brands because of proven technologies and brand equity,” remarks Vishal Gupta, Director – Retail, Puma India.

Growth Drivers

The average, modern Indian consumer’s lifestyle is undergoing a massive metamorphosis. Rising incomes and discretionary expenditure in urban India have allowed people to focus increasingly on health and wellness, as well as rising awareness of lifestyle diseases. The proliferation of international brands represented by sports and Bollywood stars have kept sportswear in the public eye fuelling this drive as well.

Contemporary trends like taking long vacations, going on bike rides, hiking, travelling and indulging in recreational activities has been instrumental in driving growth of outdoor, sports inspired apparel. Most of the reputed brands of the sportswear domain have a wide range of outdoor apparel that makes a significant contribution to the total brand revenue.

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.

The flourishing online retail market is yet another catalyst that has been successful in bolstering the growth of the sportswear market in India. E-commerce has especially been instrumental in aiding brands reach to smaller cities and towns where they are not physically present of yet. “E-commerce is a channel which is going to stay and keep becoming stronger because of its massive reach and the huge Indian population. As a brand we would never be able to reach them all with physical retail and hence would have to depend upon online. The younger population is also very tech savvy and spends a lot of their time on social media where they not only get to know fashion / trends but also make purchase decision,” says Vishal Gupta.

“E-commerce is filling the availability gap for the consumers and thus growing fast. As physical retail would expand in these towns, we foresee that consumers would be happier to experience the products and buy,” says Sandeep Mukim.

Considering that the second innings of the Indian retail revolution is all set to start from the country’s smaller cities, these geographical locations have emerged as key points of importance for the sportswear industry too.

“The next big consumer group to adapt to this trend is currently in the smaller towns and cities of India. Their rising aspiration makes our availability in these locations a prime priority,” adds Sandeep Mukim.

“Sportswear is a brand-driven category and footwear even more so, and footwear is what gives international brands the edge. Added to this is the fact that sports footwear has a largely undeveloped domestic manufacturing capability in terms of material, styling and technology. So the sourcing from manufacturing bases like China entails high MOQs and huge investments. Also, footwear having a low shelf life is a high-risk business. As such, global brands have an edge as it gives them the critical value and volume to sustain EBOs and premium retail space in megastores,” explains Sakshi Juneja.

“However, Indian brands are pulling up their socks by smart sourcing of limited styles in footwear. Also, global brands are largely marketers who are dependent on local and international vendors for their apparel sourcing. Local brands like Black Panther, having vertically integrated manufacturing facilities are able to adapt and customize to customer preference more efficiently and will always have their own space,” she adds.

The Indian Consumer

The modern Indian consumer too has metamorphosed over the time and the Indian sportswear market now speaks to a more educated consumer who is aware of the importance of the right type of gear. “Through the internet and via international trends the consumer is updated with the latest in sportswear technology. To keep up with the evolving consumer, sportswear brands now launch products and technology at the same time as their global counter parts. The coolest and latest technology is brought to Indian audiences, giving them a taste of the type of innovation and experience the brand has to offer. Along with performance technology, trends such as athleisure and street style have played a big role in inspiring product and collections for the Indian market,” says Vishal Gupta.

Although Indian consumers have come a long way from their earlier price conscious selves, vestiges of this trait are still witnessed today. In line with this, brands still have to make deliberate efforts in their pricing policies. “Our prices are competitive with other international players in the market. We also try to ensure that our price points are more or less the same in India and internationally. The key is providing an awesome product with cutting edge technology while keeping the pricing competitive,” says Vishal Gupta.

“Nivia is capitalizing in a big way on our affordable price and technical products. In our factory at Jalandhar, we have total control from fabric designing to the final garment which is helping us in keeping our prices affordable for most products,” states Mohit Prabhakar.


The sportswear segment in India, like many other fashion segment, is undergoing an astounding change of perception as well as evolution. A noticeable change in the Indian sportswear industry is that it’s becoming increasingly organized; and modern retail is picking pace in small cities too, much to the delight of brands, suppliers and retailers of sportswear and sports lifestyle products.

Overall, the industry is poised to grow, and India will be a key market as the awareness about sports and fitness increases and people become aware of being healthy.

“We are extremely positive of the future and next opportunity is in making products for India at local prices. There is large population waiting to consume this category, which has stayed away till now because of the absence of trustworthy home grown players. The domestic brands would take this advantage as local manufacturing is becoming more updated,” concludes Sandeep Mukim.