The fitness sector, which has been growing steadily since the 2011-12 period, has experienced major shifts since the pandemic period. According to a report, the online sales of activewear for many companies on average rose to 60 percent in a single month during the pandemic indicating the sales for activewear had actually increased more than fashion sales. Given the increased demand due to pandemic-push and there being already a lot of problems to solve in the category, the sector holds a lot of potential going forward.
Riding on the demand boom, Mumbai-based brand Tego.fit has been clocking 2-3X YoY by solving several customer pain points and providing the solution desired by the consumer.
Krishna Chandak, Co-Founder, Tego stated, “The brand started around 2016 with my Co-founder Ashish Naik with the aim to solving the pain-points combined with a trend in what we had noticed emerging technologies in textiles getting commercialized faster than ever before. We noticed that consumers don’t necessarily identify themselves as sports-centric and we couldn’t see a brand solving pain-points of everyday athletes.”
If we understand Indian consumer behavior, according to various experts, they want products that have multiple usage occasions and also want longevity in their athletic and activewear products. So, there has been a need for a brand that provides a refined head-to-toe solution for the everyday athlete consumer.
Chandak feels that his brand is the one providing the solution.
“It is a very involved purchase – these consumers do a lot of research, and they expect the products to last. So there is a lot of trust-building that goes into the consumer. And, we felt these were the gaps in the market. That’s how we started,” Chandak added.
The company has been in retail since 2016 and had reached about 300 stores till 2019, when they realized there is a lack of retail space for premium athletic products. It requires a lot of storytelling which the brand can only do on a digital platform.
So, in 2019, the brand realized not to focus just on Amazon but also on their own website: Tego.fit. It gives the opportunity for product storytelling, building relationships with the consumer, etc.
Pandemic As Opportunity
If we look historically, every time there has been an economic crisis, take, for instance, the 2009 recession, the activewear segment grew significantly. In times of uncertainty, fitness is one thing that consumers turn to. And, the story was no different for the pandemic.
"For us, it was very obvious that it (demand boom during the pandemic) was bound to happen. We are very focused on the consumer which you are serving," Chandak said.
The company also believes that the consumers in the category generally speaking are value-conscious, rather than price-usually. This is why Tego focuses a lot on building good quality products, which is one of the USPs of the brand. A lot of innovation goes into building the products: selection of the right materials for all weather conditions, adding the qualities of moisture-resistant, and so on.
Pain-points in the Activewear Market
The supply chain for sure is definitely one of the significant challenges given the fact it is difficult for a start-up in the segment to manufacture everything locally.
Chandak shared, "When we started out in 2016-17 and what we see now, there is definitely a big change. What we notice is that near shoring (transferring a business operation to a nearby country, especially in preference to a more distant location) is much easier than when we started out."
"For the supply chain, you have to build a relationship with the manufacturers because it is amazing how they can support your creativity in a downturn, we’ve seen those good suppliers are willing to back even the simplest of brands if you have a very clear on what you are trying to build and that is what we have noticed," Chandak further shared.
Online Vs Offline Strategy
Despite the obvious confusion among start-ups about where to allocate funds going forward: offline or online, there are certain observations that cannot be ignored. For instance, to scale and build trust among the consumers, it is extremely helpful to have an offline store whereas the D2C channel is very good at reaching out to consumers and getting feedback.
"Building a brand only online is not sustainable; in any case, we’ve always believed that to build a sustainable brand, you need to have touch and feel opportunity," Chandak shared.
The brand is currently working on figuring out sub-categories that it can position itself towards and build a fitness solution.
“There are adjacencies we are looking at: focusing on female consumers and cycling category. The growth will come from identifying these categories and solving specific pain points for a problem we think is large enough and can scale,” Chandak concluded.