Virender Sehwag on future of sportswear category and journey of his athleisure brand VS by Sehwag
- Virender Sehwag’s activewear and sportswear brand, ‘
VS by Sehwag’, announced its foray into the online and e-commerce world on August 3.
- On the back of a strong omnichannel presence and his huge fan following, the hard hitter is eyeing to acquire five million customers by 2026. He is also aiming to become a Rs 100 crore brand in 3 years.
- We talk to the man behind the brand and India’s cricketing legend,
Virender Sehwagto trace VS by Sehwag’s journey, challenges of finding your own space in a cluttered market when you are competing against international brands like Adidas, Nike and Puma, focus areas for H2 2021, marketing strategy and larger vision for the brand.
Sehwag spoke to us about the challenges he has faced in his new role as an entrepreneur, finding his own space in an otherwise cluttered market where his competition is against international brands, his focus areas for H2 2021, similarities and differences between running a business and cricket, marketing strategy and his larger vision for the brand.
While international players have a big head start, Sehwag is confident that at his attractive price range, no competitor will be able to beat him. He is looking at diving into the mass market by offering affordable price points to consumers in Tier II and III cities.
“My USP is that our products are ‘#uncompromised’ with quality and price. Some people have to compromise with quality or compromise with money, but if you buy VS, you won’t compromise with anything. There’s a gap in the segment; it was either a big brand with quality products and too steep a price or a lesser brand at a lower price band, with subnormal quality- in either case shoppers had to compromise on one factor or the other. There is competition everywhere. Even when I was playing cricket, I was competing against my team players to score more runs than them. But if you offer the best price and quality, there’s no competition for you. There are so many other brands and good luck to them on meeting my price and quality offering,” Sehwag told Ad and Media Insider.
He said that his brand pays close attention to quality as well, inspecting the design and durability of each product till a piece of fabric or kit does not feel ‘3D ready’ to him. He also said that his humble, middle-class upbringing and mindset is translated into his brand because he believes that India is a price-oriented country and it is easier to attract consumers at a lower price with long-lasting products. “If I offer the same quality product at 499 or 599, which usually costs you around Rs 3000-4000, consumers will buy my product and come again for its quality,” said Sehwag.
According to CCFGroup, nearly 80% of India’s sportswear market is dominated by global brands like Adidas, Reebok, Nike and Puma, with others such as Under Armour, Fila and Lotto, domestic multi-brand sportswear retailers like Planet Sports and Royal Sporting House, and emerging local players, collectively battling for the remaining 20%. Between the four big sports brands, Adidas had a 45% market share in 2017.
Now, with his foray into the e-commerce world, Sehwag is eyeing to acquire five million customers by 2026. Sehwag has already started ramping up the brand’s portfolio by adding over 30 new products to its existing 50 stock keeping units (SKUs) across categories like Tracks, T-Shirts, Jackets and Shorts and VS Gear- a range of Cricket Bats, Gloves and Pads.
VS is also about to launch three stores this month in Vadodara (Gujarat), Kolhapur (Maharashtra) and Sultanpur (Uttar Pradesh) and has appointed distributors in Delhi, Faridabad, Bhopal, Indore, Sri Ganganagar and Kanpur.
The brand’s first store was launched in Ahmedabad and it had added two more stores in the same city subsequently. It was unveiled under the aegis of
“We couldn’t open more stores due to the pandemic but now, we will open 5 stores outside of Gujarat in the next 40 days,” said Sehwag.
As an entrepreneur, Sehwag says that he likes to play it safe unlike cricket, which is a game of risks. He said, “As a cricketer I could take risks but as an entrepreneur, I am more responsible because I have responsibilities on my shoulders to deliver the best quality products.”
Future of sportswear category and VS by Sehwag
From 1997 when Sehwag started playing to today, he feels that the sportswear market hasn’t changed much apart from the fact that consumers have more disposable income today and they are willing to spend extra for quality products.
After the pandemic, the sports world and the fashion industry have become more closer knit than ever before. Jogger pants and sports or polo t-shirts can be seen sported by everyone from young millennials to CEOs over Zoom calls.
India’s sportswear market is also rapidly catching up with the wider global fitness trends. It is driven by improving lifestyle, urbanisation, growth of e-commerce and increasing focus on health.
According to data and analytics company GlobalData, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) sportswear market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.4% from $189.8 billion in 2020 to $297.8 billion in 2025, outpacing global growth.
With this growing demand for athleisure in everyday fashion and on the back of a strong expansion plan in untapped markets, VS by Sehwag is aiming to become a Rs 100 crore brand in 3 years.
Sharing his focus areas for H2-2021, Sehwag said, “We are looking at focusing more on digital marketing. I would also leverage my digital fan following to attract new customers. This year, I would focus on increasing more awareness. And to attract other sports personalities, I would be focusing on offering quality products at a reasonable price. So, in the next 3-5 years, my target is to reach at least 5 million customer base and achieve Rs 100 crores in revenue through Omni-channel retail, over the next 3 years. Considering the kind of fan following I have, I feel this target is achievable.”