Fitness conscious India boost active wear segment

16 Jul 2014

With people taking to active lifestyle to remain fit, active wear segment in India is on a growth track. Big sports brands like Adidas, Puma, Nike and Reebok have taken note of this change and turned to be sports lifestyle brands in India. While the segment’s focus has been more on men’s

category, the women’s category is seeing rapid growth. With increasing brand play, many Indian labels are making inroads into this lucrative market. The active wear segment is estimated at 1.5-2 billion dollars (Rs 8,840 to 11,787 crores) in India growing at 12-15 percent, year-on-year.

Global brands capture market pulse

Continuing its global mission to change how people perceive and experience fitness, Reebok India, for example, recently announced the launch of its new, fully-integrated marketing campaign ‘Live with Fire’ featuring cricketer M S Dhoni and Bollywood actors Nargis Fakhri and John Abraham. The aim was to encourage people to stay ‘fit for life’ through a series of activities.

While the men’s segment rules the roost, the women’s category is growing as wearing gym clothes beyond the gym as a fashion statement has never been more appropriate. With increasing health consciousness across all age groups and a marked shift from formal attire to comfort-oriented casual attire in urban India, many smaller brands are now carving their own niche. International brands continue experimenting with product, quality and design mix. A new Indian brand category of sportswear, gym wear, loungewear and swimwear is rapidly coming into their own growth segment.

After cricker and soccer, Nike is now eyeing a presence in the running segment since it is becoming a community sport in the country with increasing number of youngsters taking to running. The plan is to tie-up with college festivals by organizing races to enhance the brand image. “There are different categories in the active wear space. There is performance wear, which is highly technical and used for athletics, and there is what we called fitness inspired casual wear, which are items that can be worn to the gym, or can be worn out during the day as well. Currently, this space is dominated by international brands such as Nike, Puma and Reebok with no competition from an Indian brand,” opines Sid Shah, President of the Wild East Group, who promote the HRX brand.

India wakes up to active wear

Domestic labels like HRX designed with Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan are emerging and being accepted by discerning Indians. Exceed Entertainment and the Wild East Group spent about two years developing the brand, its identity, validating the opportunity, and speaking with consumers to understand if there was really something different they could bring to the market.

“The active wear category in India is worth Rs 2,400 crores. Around 10 to 12 percent of this is women and the rest is dedicated to men. But the women’s market is growing at around 40 percent because the base is small. Brands are yet to make a big inroad in women’s category. I am optimistic about branded women’s active wear category growing rapidly because there are a lot of unorganized players who offer products at lower price points,” explains Nischal Puri, Director, Brandis makers of 2GO men’s active wear brand.

Experts say the growth of this category is happening across markets from metros to Tier II, III towns. Smaller towns with a smaller base are demonstrating higher growth rates. “Active wear has an extremely bright, though challenging future as customer expects global quality, latest technology at affordable price points in India. Creating lines suited for Indian fits and disparate weather conditions at these price points is a challenge. As more people get active specific niches are bound to see a fillip,” avers Gaurav Dublish, Director, Wildcraft India, promoters of the Wildcraft outdoor range of apparels.