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Sanya Arora
Sanya Arora
Sanya has a keen eye for industry trends and a passion for uncovering the stories behind the brands. Her goal is to deliver insightful analysis and in-depth reporting on the business of fashion. From emerging fashion brands to established powerhouses, she strives to bring readers the latest news and expert perspectives shaping the fashion world.

Abhishek Ganguly’s leap from Puma to Agilitas: Inside the sportswear startup’s big plans

After working with Puma for 17 years, of which 9 were Managing Director, and before that working with Reebok India as regional manager, Abhishek Ganguly went a step up from his corporate skills. He turned to entrepreneurship and co-founded his footwear venture, Agilitas.

A pioneering sports company headquartered in Bengaluru, Agilitas is redefining the landscape of sportswear with an unwavering commitment to innovation, quality, and consumer engagement. Founded to transform the industry, Agilitas boasts a comprehensive approach, seamlessly integrating cutting-edge manufacturing technologies, robust research and development centres, and visionary product design labs through strategic acquisitions – including the recent acquisition of Mochiko, India’s leading sports footwear manufacturer – Agilitas solidified its position as a global force in sportswear. With a portfolio of iconic brand partnerships and exclusive licenses, Agilitas is poised to make a lasting impact on the global stage.

At the core of its mission lies a dedication to insight-led strategies, consumer-centric designs, and agile operations, setting a new standard for the future of sportswear.

In an exclusive interview with Sanya Arora of IMAGES Business of Fashion, Abhishek Ganguly, Co-Founder, Agilitas, spoke of the company’s overarching vision and ambitious plans for the future.

Excerpts from the freewheeling chat…

First and foremost – why did you decide to leave the comfort and security of a high-level corporate post and venture into your own business?
The decision to venture into our own business stemmed from a confluence of factors. Throughout my tenure in the corporate realm spanning a decade, I discerned a significant growth trajectory unfolding in India, particularly fueled by the burgeoning middle class. Concurrently, the sportswear category exhibited promising signs of expansion, propelled by a rising number of individuals engaging in sports and fitness activities.

Recognising this convergence of India’s economic growth and the upward trajectory of the sportswear market, I perceived a multiplier effect at play, signifying a compelling opportunity. Moreover, the alignment of our vision with the investment thesis of institutional backers further underscored the viability and potential of our endeavor.

With the amalgamation of capital, expertise, and market dynamics, the stage was set for a substantial opportunity. Above all, there was a sense of pride and purpose in spearheading the creation of an Indigenous sports company tailored for the Indian market – a venture that symbolised innovation and progress within a domain where India had traditionally not held a prominent position. Collaborating with co-founders, stakeholders, and the founding team, our collective ambition is to chart a new course, one characterised by innovation, excellence, and a distinctively Indian identity in the realm of sports apparel.

Agilitas is a very unusual name. What does it mean?
Agilitas isn’t a consumer-facing brand, but a group entity and its essence is deeply rooted in agility. The fundamental principle guiding Agilitas is its commitment to being swift, adaptable, and nimble in the ever-evolving landscape of sportswear. As a company born out of India with a global vision, we prioritise responsiveness to trends, shortening product life cycles, and leveraging technology to stay ahead. Thus, the name Agilitas derives directly from our dedication to agility, symbolising our proactive approach to innovation and adaptation within the industry

What’s the objective behind forming Agilitas?
The core concept behind Agilitas revolves around the strategic penetration of the Indian sportswear market. Our vision entails introducing aspirational brands to the Indian consumer landscape while ensuring optimal value for our customers. Recognising the untapped potential within the Indian market and the challenges existing brands face in fully harnessing it, Agilitas aims to fill this gap with distinctive offerings. As the sportswear market continues to burgeon, our objective is clear: to seize this opportunity and make a significant impact within the industry

Tell us about your recent acquisition of Mochiko shoes.
We operate as a comprehensive platform in sportswear, encompassing manufacturing and retail. Since we manufacture for leading global sportswear brands, the acquisition of Mochiko Shoes will serve to anchor our manufacturing capabilities. Mochiko Shoes is a 15-year-old company based in the Dehradun-Rishikesh area with an annual capacity of 10 million pairs and a workforce of 10,000. It is one of the foremost sports footwear manufacturers in India, manufacturing for many renowned brands, globally. It’s well-known for its commitment to quality and boasts robust technical expertise, ensuring the production of top-tier products. Along with bolstering our manufacturing prowess, it will further help us align with the ‘Make in India’ initiative and give us more proximity to the customer.

Mochiko Shoes is a manufacturing partner to leading international brands, such as Adidas, Puma, New Balance, Skechers, Reebok, Asics, Crocs, Decathlon, Clarks, and US Polo, among others. With fully integrated, end-to-end manufacturing capabilities, Mochiko is the first sports footwear manufacturer in India to receive a BIS license, and is fully compliant with the soon-to-be-implemented Quality Control Orders (QCOs), by the Government of India. Additionally, all its units are ISO 9001, 14001 and 45001 certified.

Over time, we are dedicated to not only expanding the capacity of this facility but also enhancing its technical capabilities to meet evolving market demands.

Are you going to launch private labels as well?
We’re poised to launch multiple brands tailored to diverse consumer segments within India’s sportswear market. These brands, crafted through licensing agreements or strategic acquisitions, will offer distinct identities and pricing strategies. At this stage, we have finalized two new brands, the names of which will be announced in due course.

You secured a funding of Rs 100 crore in December 2023. What is this capital earmarked for?
Our initial round of funding amounted to a substantial Rs 430 crore, followed by an additional round of Rs 100 crore. The rationale behind such a significant capital raise at the outset stems from the inherent capital-intensive nature of the sportswear industry, particularly in establishing a robust value chain encompassing manufacturing, branding, and retail operations. Consequently, our focus remains on deploying these funds strategically, with a primary emphasis on bolstering our consumer-centric initiatives. This includes the meaningful development of our own brands, while concurrently enhancing the capacity and technical prowess of our manufacturing facilities.

What are the top three technologies that your company plans to implement?
The implementation of technology within our operations comprises two key facets. Firstly, in our contract manufacturing business, we leverage technology introduced by our brand partners or clients. This involves integrating their proprietary technologies, developed by their R&D and design teams, into our manufacturing processes. We invest in enhancing our machinery, tools, and processes to align with the requirements of these technologies, ensuring we can efficiently produce the desired products. Secondly, in the development and launch of our brands, we undertake extensive research and development. This includes creating proprietary technology and intellectual property rights (IPs) tailored to the consumer side of our business. Thus, technology plays a pivotal role in both our contract manufacturing endeavors and the creation of our brand offerings.

And finally, can you provide us with some insights into the market dynamics of sports goods manufacturing in India?
The market for sports goods and manufacturing in India is significant and dynamic. In terms of value, the branded apparel and footwear segment alone ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 crore, particularly in the mid and premium segments. Additionally, there exists a substantial business worth around Rs 30,000 crore catering to entry-level price points in sports apparel and footwear. However, a considerable portion of this market remains unorganised, representing an opportunity for conversion into branded business models. Despite this, the sportswear market in India is witnessing remarkable growth annually, underscoring its potential and attractiveness for industry players.

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