Few sectors of the textiles and apparel industry are as exciting and dynamic as sportswear. But the term can also be ambiguous, for it can be sportswear as funky fashion for the young, or sportswear as activewear category. This time, Subir Ghosh writes about the trends that are driving the sportswear-as-activewear market in India.

Even as recently as in 2010, when a premier research institution was working on the scope of sports retail in India, the idea of a website that meticulously and assiduously tracks running events in the country would have seemed a tad outlandish. That June, a working paper from the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) titled 'Sports Retailing in India: Opportunities, Constraints and Way Forward' had investigated select sports segments in India, but had inexplicably overlooked marathons in its "leisure and fitness activities" as also "other sports activities".

But seven years later, the "outdoor" landscape has metamorphosed dramatically. And, it is not just the existence of a website called indiarunning. com (of course, there would be many others emulating this portal) that delineates this marked change, but the sheer numbers that the website throws up: on April 30 alone, as many as 13 unrelated marathon events were to be held in various cities across the country. And, at the last count, at least 30 more have been scheduled for May.

Yes, India is certainly running hard, as it is cycling, gymming and trekking, and doing yoga too. The numbers would be staggering, as the flooding of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with photographs and videos every time, say, a marathon event is held somewhere in the country would show. Agreed, it may be a while before Indian runners outpace Ethiopian marathoners at the Olympics, but health consciousness and fitness have definitely become buzzwords in these last seven years.

Many of these marathon events are heavily attended, and generously sponsored too. It is a market that no sportswear brand worth its salt can let go off. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, the Indian sportswear market grew at a rate of 22 per cent, far outrunning by as many as three times the global growth of 7 per cent in the sector, according to Euromonitor International. And, by the end of this decade, according to Fibre2Fashion's estimates, this lucrative market is expected to expand exponentially, reaching anything between $8 billion and $10 billion. That's a lot of money.

The changing landscape

After India won the cricket world cup in 1983, the cricket-crazy nation witnessed a boom in the sport. As more people played and watched it, money flowed in too. At the time of the ICRIER paper, the Indian Premier League (IPL) was well into its third year and already a money-spinner, but that was only a natural extension of the 1983 trigger factor. With cricket gradually reaching a saturation point and individuals excelling in other sports, the landscape underwent a spectacular change.