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Our product engine has been churning out extremely fresh, innovative and relevant products: Atul Bajaj

In conversation with Atul Bajaj, Executive Director, Product, Merchandising & Supply Chain, Puma India, who talks about the innovations in the athleisure wear and how they plan to market it.

Tags: Puma India, athleisure wear, Indian fitness market, fitness wear, Athleisure, sporty, Sportswear, women athleisure wear, multifunction clothing, millennials, PUMA, Virat Kohli, Ignite Your City, Phenom, Women's training footwear, Selena Gomez, Ignite Limi

BY Zarafshan Shiraz  |  March 20, 2018  |  comments ( 0 )  | 

Atul Bajaj

With the heat on, the days of wanting a summer body are back and so is the athleisure fashion trending since last year. In a candid interview with indianretailer, Atul Bajaj, Executive Director, Product, Merchandising & Supply Chain, ‎Puma India, reveals the innovations to look out for while aiming for a health-conscious lifestyle, as the millennials crave for fresh products that are comfortable, practical yet stylish.

What is the current demand in the market?
Increasing disposable income along with the internet and mobile penetration has helped in raising the aspiration level of consumers. Today, consumers are exposed to culture, music, tastes, and preferences that prevail globally. Therefore, they catch on to universal fashion trends very fast. As a brand, the primary ask from our consumers is to provide them with global fashion. We try to ensure that we bring our latest designs to consumers in India as well.

Where did this sudden athleisure boom spring from?
Athleisure can be considered as a fashion industry movement, enabled by improved textile materials, which allow sportswear to be more versatile, comfortable and fashionable. It has been identified as being sporty and stylish. Sportswear which had been worn exclusively in gyms is now being worn elsewhere by young adults and fitness-conscious consumers and has been accompanied by a relaxation in dress codes. Its popularity may have stemmed from its ability to fill a gap in the market when sportswear was once merely functional rather than stylish. Due to innovations in textiles and technology, improvements have been made in functionality, such that garments and footwear have become more breathable, lightweight, and waterproof.  The new garments are performance enhancing, in the sense that they allow wearers to carry out everyday activities easily.

What trends/innovations have you witnessed in the business?
Fashion is ever innovating and changing. Earlier people preferred monotones but now they are experimenting with prints and colours for a bold style statement. Teaming up your athleisure with denims is catching up for an instant casual look. Also, with workplaces becoming more open and casual, this market will further witness growth.

In our business journey, we have seen that consumers now demand products that are globally in trend. Therefore, we always try to ensure that we bring our latest internationally available designs to consumers in India. We ensure that our product offering to Indian consumers are similar to what they find in other parts of the world.

There has been a tremendous growth in women athleisure wear which has contributed to overall growth of this market. With increased focus on fitness and health amongst women audience, there is an increase in the demand for comfortable and multifunction clothing. For them, athleisure reflects a lifestyle shift as much as a fashion trend.

With a clear opportunity for growth in this business, what retail options are you exploring?
Consumers today have seamlessly moved on to digital platforms to receive and search for information. Hence, it is quintessential for any brand to be present on relevant platforms and provide adequate information for decision making. Almost half of our marketing budget is directed to digital performance marketing for right platform presence and to provide the consumer easy transition from offline to online.

While going online is essential, we also have to maintain strong on-ground visibility. At present we have 350 stores plus across India, with over 60 company-owned stores. Running stores by ourselves gives us the possibility to directly interact with our consumers. This helps us in all sales channels that we have. We will continue to open our own stores in India, wherever we find the right opportunity. We will also continue to support our franchised-store business and support other multi-brand store formats. This enables us to have a healthy balance of business.

How are you intending to fuel the brand’s USP? How are you planning to cater to so many mushrooming customers?
For us, it's essential to always stay relevant to our consumers and in order to do that we also have to move at the speed of culture and quickly adapt to changes.

As a brand, our product engine has been churning out extremely fresh, innovative and relevant products to the millennials who want products that are comfortable, practical and yet stylish. We focus on designing products that perfectly blends fashion and active lifestyle- for every person looking to easily transition from work to play. We always aim to push both fitness and fashion boundaries. From gym to streets to clubs, we design active wears that serve more than one purpose.

What are you doing in your bid to promote a healthy lifestyle?
When we established PUMA in India our biggest challenge was that as a country we were not sports and active life driven. Over the years we have managed to contribute to develop this culture through our Ignite Your City runs which were conducted regularly from our stores, and the Do You campaign which ignited a spark in women’s segment for a more active lifestyle and being themselves unapologetically. We got Virat Kohli on board as the brand ambassador and he recently launched One8. Developed as an athletic leisure range, in collaboration with PUMA, this brand is backed by the movement Come Out and Play, with an aim to drive conversation around being an active nation together and developing a fitness ecosystem. The movement encourages Indians to achieve better physical health by urging them to incorporate play into their daily lives.

What is the forecast for your business?
Our aim is to be Forever Faster. We ensure this by bringing the latest and innovative technologically advanced products each season. We recently added Jamming and Phenom to our product portfolio.

Jamming makes a strong statement though technology breakthrough and stunning looks. Free-floating EVA beads in the sole provide excellent cushioning and a feeling of walking on sand. Together with fully knitted upper, it instantly catches your attention.

Phenom is our latest Women’s training footwear. It also marks the beginning of our association with Selena Gomez, our ambassador. Phenom makes cross-training more comfortable and supportive for women with its technology innovation.

Ignite Limitless SR, launched in February 2018 season, to take Street Running to the next level, along with a bold street attitude, also encapsulates Ignite foam sandwiched between midsole layers. We will continue to offer new material executions on our Tsugi franchise. In fact, Avid marks the birth of a new franchise in this space with an impactful construction of knitted upper materials and an absolutely new and stylish sole.

We will continue with our DO YOU women’s campaign with En pointe, an elevated collection inspired by Ballet and Martial arts. Then we embark on a new Training journey with Lewis Hamilton, arguably the best F1 driver of this generation, where he will share his training regime in Ignite Flash evoKNIT. With full knitted upper and Ignite foam cushioning in the sole, FlashevoKNIT makes a strong statement, not only for training but also on the street where it looks really cool.

We will continue to push the boundaries in the Running, training and lifestyle space through technology introductions that improve performance and stay trend relevant.

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