An exclusive interview with Pallavi Barman, Business Head at HRX, India’s first and homegrown athleisure wear brand
Pallavi Barman stands as a driving force within the dynamic realm of Indian fashion, particularly in the context of athleisure wear. With a resolute determination to blend style and comfort seamlessly, she serves as the Business Head at HRX, India’s pioneering homegrown athleisure wear brand.
As a trailblazer in the fashion industry, Barman has played an instrumental role in propelling HRX to the forefront of athleisure fashion, embodying the brand’s ethos of inspiring individuals to lead active and empowered lifestyles.
Her innovative vision, coupled with a deep understanding of consumer preferences, has been integral to shaping HRX’s journey towards becoming a coveted symbol of contemporary Indian fashion.
Can you tell us about your background and how you became the Business Head at HRX?
Pallavi Barman: I am a computer engineer- a university gold medalist who goes on to become a coder at a big IT MNC and a Brand and Communications graduate from MICA taking on brands and marketing ever since. I started my career as a programmer at IBM and then moved to brands and marketing starting with Virgin Mobile at Tata Teleservices, moving to Fashion retail at Reliance Brands.
I also tried my hands at setting up my boutique marketing consulting called Whyte Collar, gathered some learning along the way and moved on to VIP Industries and finally landed at HRX. HRX happened to me at a critical time in my journey where I had just embraced motherhood for the first time and was trying to deal with my new normal 5 months postpartum.
I grew up in Kolkata but I have lived in different cities in India and overseas before I called myself to Mumbai permanently. I am a Bharatanatyam graduate – learnt since I was 4 years of age, a fitness enthusiast for over 10 years now, actually I resorted to fitness ever since I moved to Mumbai, have been training in calisthenics for almost 5 years now and running for almost 7 years now.
I am an avid reader, a big believer in good clean nutrition, fitness, biohacking and wellness living, a fairly decent cook, a full time mother of two and an aspiring entrepreneur.
HRX has become a well-known brand. How has the company managed to differentiate itself from competitors?
Pallavi Barman: It’s been 10 years since the phenomenon called HRX began.
This answer comes to me with ease now.
– We are not meant for anyone’s professional or athletic pursuit (at least as of now). HRX is the brand which gets you started and some day will take you to the finishing line too. So we are the brand for the “everyday athletes”
– We are a fitness brand. We don’t sell a product or category. We hand hold you to adopt a lifestyle – a healthy lifestyle which makes you fitter and a better version of who you are.
What is HRX’s approach to product development and how do you ensure that the brand stays relevant in a constantly evolving industry?
Pallavi Barman: We call ourselves a community centric brand. The approach is to learn from “Everyday Athletes”, the super users, the thought leaders and execute all this learning nimbly and simply at a super rapid pace to aid the customer with better products, services and opportunities. Some anecdotal examples are below:
-In the initial days we had launched a seamless collection for women- fitted and snug. A bunch of our super users opened our eyes to the fact that women share the gym space with men and tend to get cautious.
Seamless clothing rather than being flattering can sometimes highlight flaws on the contrary. So Indian women need longer and loose fitted tees. Our collection almost immediately catered.
-There was a gap in availability of an age agnostic, gender agnostic and fitness level agnostic workout and we picked the cues to create the HRX workout, exclusively available at Cult gyms.
-During marathons we heard the runners – with sweat and moisture, the fabric sometimes tends to get transparent and causes discomfort. Runners were wearing layers. We changed the fabric used in the running collection and better ourselves.
-We analyzed our negative searches to find people looking for active innerwear and we launched ours.
-During pandemic our community started home workouts in their attempt to stay fit and we supported them by launching our home gym and equipment range.
-Customers wanted to eat healthy but Indian- primitive Indian grains, ghee, Indian herbs and spices- so we launched the millet khichdi with Eat fit.
And the list continues.
HRX has collaborated with several celebrities, including Hrithik Roshan, to promote the brand. How have these collaborations helped in expanding HRX’s reach and brand awareness?
Pallavi Barman: To start with here is some information- HRX was founded by Hrithik Roshan in 2010.
And from here on this answer will be trifold.
HRX has not collaborated with Hrithik Roshan, Hrithik happens to be the Founder of the brand and is at the core of it. So he is our Founder. Through HRX we have set out on a mission to help people lead a better life leading with his example.
HR always yearned to share his passion for fitness, his vision with people and help them gain awareness about what fitness truly means- healthy mind and body and not just abs and biceps. HRX is the enabling platform which does exactly that through HR.
HRX, as any brand would, has had endorsers for various categories along its journey. We have had Tiger Shroff, Vaani Kapoor endorse our top categories like fashion and smart wearables and we have worked with some big influential names like Diva Dhawan and Gabriella Demetriades with a very specific aim of talking to the new age Indian woman and motivate them to take charge of their wellbeing.
HRX has had several collaborations with partners like Go Sports Foundation aimed at helping the grass root athletes to grow and represent India on global podiums. Other sports initiatives have been associated with IPL, ISL, at an amateur level with Roots Premiere League in Mumbai, AISW in Calisthenics, Fit Page community for running and walking and several such.
With the rise of e-commerce and online shopping, how does HRX ensure that its products are accessible to customers both online and offline?
Pallavi Barman: Simply by opening stores. Like I said earlier, HRX is Indian, HRX is home grown, HRX is nimble and HRX is for the everyday athlete from Bharat and India.
We listen closely to our customer needs and wants so that we can deliver to those almost in real time. HRX has 5 offline stores in Bangalore, Mumbai, Kochi and Indore so far. We would be opening at least 10 stores this year in different cities in the country. HRX gym is also open in Bangalore now and so is HRX Café. We are aiming to bring all our online experiences offline to our customers as fast as we can and as soon as possible.
What is HRX’s approach to sustainability and ethical practices in manufacturing? (avoid this question if it can be avoided)
Pallavi Barman: It’s a while before activewear can fully move to use recycled polyester or the stretchable lycra mixed cotton and still spell affordability for consumers. We are working towards those.
At a base level we moved to Indian manufacturing a while ago and diligently aiming to support the Indian small businesses and manufacturers in the future.
What are some of the biggest challenges that HRX has faced and how have you overcome them?
Pallavi Barman: HRX is a celebrity fitness brand with its unique challenges. HRX started off at a time when fitness was nascent to our nation. People were merely warming up to the idea of physical activity and a handful were pursuing fitness because their profession demanded so- artists, celebrities, sports stars etc.
Were the serious pursuant so democratizing fitness was the first big challenge for a home grown brand like HRX. Making fitness accessible and understandable to the average Indian was the first step.
This was followed by competition with the global giants who happen to be legacy brands and setting up bars at HRX which were at par or better than these brands was a gargantuan task.
Rest is business as usual- every day challenges to solve for teams, communities, product improvement, supply chain, marketing innovations and so on.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted HRX’s business operations and how have you adapted to the changing circumstances?
Pallavi Barman: COVID had its good and bad impact. We all lost human connection, we experienced some losses, the world went through a tumultuous time. But the silver lining was that people took control of their health and fitness and started taking the plunge towards self-care measures. Baby steps taken then have become some serious fitness enthusiasts now.
We as a fitness brand withstood the time by working hand in glove with our community. We created content with them, for them, by them. We created our first user generated content led brand film which also went on to winning awards.
We launched newer categories because those needs became dominant then. We did a virtual marathon because the sense of coming together and running in a community couldn’t be manifested physically back then, we got our runners to jam and celebrate through a virtual marathon. All in all we had a lot to learn and a lot to take away. We were set far apart as teams but we got closer while working from home. We missed each other and yet we achieved together.
HRX has expanded into others. Can you tell us about the company’s vision for the future and any upcoming projects?
Pallavi Barman: HRX is a fitness brand and our aim is to provide a fitness enthusiast with the entire range of fitness offerings that he or she needs for becoming a better version of themselves. Currently we offer activewear and sportswear, shoes, accessories, innerwear, eyewear, smart wearables, nutrition, cloud kitchen hot meals, fragrances, home gym equipment, sports goods and bicycles.
We have just started opening HRX stores, gyms and HRX cafes as physical touch points for our consumers and community members. We did our first half marathon early this year and by the end of 2023 we will have a 5 city race calendar for our runners and community members.
We will continue bringing experts, influencers and motivators to X Pod to share their journey and struggles with our audience as examples and lessons to learn from. We will continue to bring the newest and latest from the world of fitness and wellness to the 140 Cr Indians and make it easier for them to adapt and sustain a healthy life.
The aspiration is to coach and convert people to add a fitness ritual to their daily lives because after all health is wealth.
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