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Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank. (Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank. (Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

India is a powerful market waiting to be unleashed: Under Armour CEO

  • Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank talks about the sportswear market in India, and merging technology, innovation with fitness apparel
  • The launch of Under Armour's flagship store in India in New Delhi marks an important juncture for the firm's Asia-Pacific plans

New Delhi: In the mid-1990s, Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of sportswear brand Under Armour, started selling his first products from his grandmother’s basement. It is what he calls a “eureka moment" when the former college American football player decided to craft a solution for his sweat-soaked cotton t-shirts. The answer was a sweat-wicking undershirt. Almost two decades later, Under Armour is one of the world’s most successful sportswear companies.

The launch of its first flagship store in India in New Delhi also marks an important juncture in its plan to expand in the Asia-Pacific region. “We are not here to make a quick buck in India. We are here to make a permanent mark," says Patrik Frisk, president and COO, Under Armour.

“We are opening another store in a few months in Mumbai. We think we are going to have around 10 stores by the end of the year. We’ll combine that with online presence," he adds.

In an interview with Mint, Plank talks about the sportswear market in India, and merging technology, innovation with fitness apparel. Edited excerpts:

There are a bunch of performance sportswear brands that have entered India in the last decade. What does Under Armour add in terms of choice?

There’s never a great or bad time. I think we are here at the perfect time to be in India. I think we’ve got the pieces lined up that give us the best opportunity to be successful...With the climate and environment here, everything that we make is meant to stretch and have moisture management. That idea of performance is something we can bring to this market in a massive way.

Consumers with an active lifestyle form an important part of the performance sportswear market. How do you plan to position yourself in India?

In any market you do business in, you will find that there are pockets of those who excel and some we can enable. You have to do it through inspiration. That’s what brands are for. Our job is to have them motivated not only by the commercials, the way we are speaking to them, but also through the product. It has to be a product that you put on and say that ‘I do feel a little stronger’ or ‘It made my run a little bit easier.’

One of your latest products—the HOVR Infinite running shoe—has a sensor that tracks your running. Can you tell us more about that?

It’s the world’s first shoe that comes with a sensor and has its own app. We are confined by the devices that we carry with us or have on our body. For this shoe, you don’t need a device. You don’t even need to open the app. You simply put on the shoe and go for a run. It will trace your time, distance, splits, pace, cadence, stride length. When you think about the Internet of Things, there is certainly great use for people beyond carrying fitness trackers… It’s not easy. It takes a lot of conviction, a great structure and a process. There’s nothing simple about combining digital and technology (with sportswear). The trick is: we make you think that it is that simple.

We have graduated from cricket and now have a slew of sporting leagues in the country. How does that make India interesting for you?

We have around 40 languages spoken in the 75 countries we do business in. But an athlete is an athlete. There’s passion and love for cricket in this country and we understand that. We want to be a part of helping it grow: the overall brand of sport and the idea of health and fitness. We would like to drive health, fitness, as well as sports into the culture of India. It’s such a powerful market waiting to be unleashed.

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