‘We are nowhere near saturation point’

Aneesha Labroo started her own activewear company in India after noticing how fitness culture was booming throughout the country. Here she talks about the challenges of launching the brand and why the Indian wellness sector is in a healthy place.
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Over the past few years, India has caught up with the global fitness trend. Spotting this early, Aneesha Labroo launched her company, Kica, in 2016, aiming to meet the demand for high-quality activewear. And as more women get into sport, the nation’s activewear industry is growing, too. Global business analyst Research and Markets estimates it will be worth nearly INR 1 trillion ($13.5 billion) by 2024.  

Now a team of five, Kica is inspiring women to get moving through initiatives such as the Kica Women’s League, which comprises more than 80 players of all ages. ‘Our focus is on building a community that can be active together,’ says Aneesha, who hopes to replicate the concept in other sports.

How is the fitness market changing in India?

A. ‘The idea that exercise needs to be a part of your wellbeing is gaining traction, and people’s incomes and aspirations are rising. They can now afford to pay for things surrounding their fitness. India’s economy has been growing at about 6% for 30 years – rising incomes tend to create greater demand and more business opportunities.’

In what shape is the activewear sector now?

A. ‘There were only basic Indian clothing brands when we launched, but now there are lots more. Many sit on Amazon or a huge portal called Myntra. For these brands, it’s about manufacturing a product at a good price point, maybe about INR 500 to 600 [$7 to $8] for a pair of leggings. But there is a new wave of sustainable activewear now, priced far higher than Kica’s. Our leggings cost about INR 1,200 ($16), compared with theirs at INR 4,000 ($55). I’m always finding new brands in India, so it's definitely a space that people are interested in. It’s not crowded at all – we’re nowhere near saturation point.’ 

What was your biggest challenge in launching?

A. ‘Our first hurdle was finding a good, solid manufacturing unit that kept up with our quality requirements and produced garments for us in the volumes and pricing we required. The quality and type of fabric was an integral part of our business plan. Its availability in India was limited, so a stable supply chain was key. ’

How did you find the right business model?

A. ‘Initially we went down the traditional retail route with an offline presence, but this was a period when online availability in India exploded. When costs fell by 90%, we decided to focus on our online presence as we saw the chance to cater to the entire country through online sales, at a competitive cost.’

Is attracting talent to small startups difficult?

A. ‘It isn’t easy, especially if it’s not in a “hot” area like technology. But India has strong roots in entrepreneurship and startup culture – so, as the brand grew, people were more attracted to our philosophy and vision.’

Any advice for people launching in India?

A. ‘India is an agglomeration of many smaller markets. So a one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work. Neither does copying and pasting from the west. Take time to understand your customer.’

This article was first published in Courier issue 42, August/September 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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