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We will add at least 10 more stores this year, says Afsar Zaidi of HRX

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An interaction with Afsar Zaidi, Co-founder HRX, the celebrity fitness brand which was introduced by Hrithik Roshan 

HRX (Hrithik Roshan Extreme) was strictly an online brand until last year. It offers a range of products including t-shirts, track pants, jackets, tights, as well as sports accessories such as footwear, and backpacks for men and women. Its store collections are inspired by the Bollywood actor’s everyday choices for workouts. The brand, jointly owned by Hrithik Roshan and Exceed Entertainment, was launched first on in November 2013 with an athleisure line for men.

Recently, the active lifestyle apparel brand has secured an official fan merchandise partnership with four teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and has unveiled physical stores. The brand’s journey signifies the success story of a home-grown sportswear. In an email interview with Images Business of Fashion, Afsar Zaidi, Co-founder of the brand said, In the course of the journey we evolved, made mistakes, corrected the course, outshone competition, made a strong community, garnered enough love and finally once all the chief milestones- in terms of business, product and consumers were covered, we decided to go omni. Excerpts

Since the brand is backed by a famous person, its visibility at the launch was big. But why has it taken so long for the brand to launch a physical store?

HRX was structured and planned as an e-commerce brand. We came into being when the e-commerce sun had just started rising. It was the dawn of a new era and we were the brand which belonged to that era. In the course of the journey we evolved, made mistakes, corrected the course, outshone competition, made a strong community, garnered enough love and finally once all the chief milestones- in terms of business, product and consumers were covered, we decided to go omni. It is a natural progression for an online brand to create experiential destinations for people to touch and feel and believe the philosophy they have lived with us and through us over the years.

What has made the HRX journey successful? Please discuss the strategy.

It is a few simple things yet the most difficult to execute:

Consistency – we have stayed consistent in our pursuit; be it our story, positioning, narrative or the trajectory for expansion. We have not been enamored by categories and conversations which are not fitness.

Our partners- We have to attribute this success to our partners who believe in HRX as much as we do if not more. Our counterparts at these partners’ offices speak the same language, work with the same fervor and live the brand with the same passion as us.

Vision and belief- We believe that we are here to make a difference and this belief percolates top down from Hrithik to the lowest common denominator working on the brand. The entire HRX team work towards the goal of making a difference ground up and enabling people to take charge of their health and fitness to create a better tomorrow.

The organized market is dominated by major global brands that also cater products in the price range you are operating. How intense is the competition?

Competition brings with it a sense of belongingness and it at least assures that we are all juxtaposed now which itself is a big win. Intensity of competition honestly is always dynamic and changes with regards to a lot of factors, the economic macros, education and lifestyle, access and availability are a few to start with. For us, the key is to adhere to our positioning and keep bettering the offering to the consumer while building upon the experience.

Give us a view of your retail expansion strategy. Where can we expect the brand’s presence?

We will be opening stores in all key markets/cities in the country where the demand is growing or has grown in the last few years. We already have retail footprints in Bengaluru and Mumbai and moving forward we are looking at cities like Indore, Kochi, Lucknow, Pune, etc. We will add at least 10 more stores this year.

For most brands, it has taken numerous associations with talents across to create more brand values. Will HRX also cease its complete reliance on one personality?

HR (Hrithik Roshan) is often heard quoting that HRX is symbol and it is something that even he looks up to. HR in his conversations acknowledges that HRX has been created as an entity which sits at the pulpit- it is not any one individual but it is a force, it is a collective, it is community which is the strength and power. It is a belief system which constitutes HRX and like any other brand, we also grow and age and evolve with our audience. We are absolutely open to the idea of having multiple fitness icons, sports stars, athletes join our bandwagon and create an environment of learning and teaching whereby motivating everyone who follows us and stays with us.

Give us an overview of the Indian sports and apparel market. Where do you see HRX in it in the next 5 years?

The Indian sportswear market would be somewhere around 5,000 crore mark growing rapidly at a 15% CAGR YOY. By 2030 it will likely grow to 14,000 cr size, but yet it is a fuzzy category because it is difficult to bifurcate performance and athleisure or lounge wear technically.

HRX in the next 5 years should have more categories to offer to the customers. We will be instrumental in bringing about on ground changes and reaching cities other than urban metros, with sports like running and cycling while continuing to play a role in training and yoga. Additionally, HRX should have more experience hubs in the form of stores, cafes, gyms,etc.

This article first appeared in IMAGES Group’s Business of Fashion Magazine June 2023 issue

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