ENGN’s expansion plans to build on female athlete representation

The company will launch five more offline stores this year.

Mumbai: ENGN, the female athlete representation company, which sells products for female athletes is expanding its offline presence. It has launched its first physical store in the Mumbai suburb of Bandra. ENGN has a product line that includes tees, tanks, leggings, sports bras and shorts. The business model for athlete representation is that a part of the revenue goes towards supporting the needs of its athletes. The company started its journey in D2C but realised that people also want a touch-and-feel experience.

Speaking to ENGN co-founder Megha Desai noted that the company was founded in August 2021 with the sole aim and dream to see Indian female athletes make a global impact. “ENGN's mantra is - "we take care of everything for our athletes so they can focus on what they do best - Making India Proud." She noted that as with any brand a lot of thinking wen into what the company wished to do. The parent company Varanium was already into fashion and lifestyle. “Personally I was very keen to do something in the fitness space. And this is what gave birth to ENGN. I believe that performance wear for women will grow.

“After the pandemic men and women realise the importance of fitness. I do believe that as a woman we need more brands that we can access and which are affordable. Fitness should not be a far-fetched thing. Women need certain kinds of fittings to work out and to be able to maintain good health. This is how the engine was born.”

When the founding team was brainstorming there were thinking about a larger cause of women’s health, fitness and obviously, performance wear is very related to sports. “Female sportspersons are so hugely underrepresented. We just felt that there was a great connection between the two. We knew that ENGN would be a performance-wear brand that backs and supports female athletes.”

She said that the company is looking to open five more stores in the year. The aim is to go to the next level. It started as a D2C format but an omni-channel presence is super important in the apparel category. The plan is to go much deeper into the product line. “We want to develop more women athlete-friendly products like shorts, and leggings. We also want to build our presence in the offline space. I cannot share investment numbers. We will also go to multi-brand platforms and e-commerce platforms this year. We will also explore shop-in-shop formats. We are an omnichannel market. When we announced our first store people asked for the address and the timings. People still want the option to touch and feel and try out the product. You have to reach customers where they are.”

She noted that the issue of price sensitivity and performance wear was looked at when the company started its journey. “We knew that while we give a very quality as far as the fabrics, material, cuts, shapes are concerned what has come out very strongly is that while girls and women look at a definite fit and feel there is also equal importance to value for money. This is the niche that we are trying to serve. What they buy has to have repeat value. They will not wear the product just once and throw it away. There is also a demand for colours and that has been a huge winner for us.”

The markets that are seeing good traction comes from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Goa, Pune. The presence is expanding into other towns and cities beyond the Metros.

She noted that right now the company represents seven athletes:

   1. Olympian swimmer Maana Patel

   2. All India Rank 1, World Rank 65, Taekwondo Anisha Aswal

   3. Nithyashree Ananda, International 400m Track Athlete

   4. National Level Long Jumper Shivani Soam

   5. Anoli Shah, International medallist, Speed skating

   6. National 400m Hurdles Athlete Lakshmi G M

   7. International Windsurfer and iQFoiler Katya Coelho

“We want to reach out to different levels of sports. That has been our endeavour so far. Besides financial support via investments and sponsorships, ENGN also provides infrastructural support with nutrition, training, mental health coaches and any other need the athlete may require to improve her performance. We are in conversations with many more athletes. We realise that a lot of athletes cannot pursue their sport because of financial challenges. We knew that we did not just want to represent them. We are not a talent agency. We want to back these girls. We invest in their overall growth. It is not just about training. We look at what they need. We have relocated Shivani and Laxmi to Bangalore to train.”

Talking about the challenge of operating in a country that mainly follows cricket she said that the company’s goal is to bring to the fore and play its part in helping female athletes in general. In cricket too it has only been in the last couple of years that the women's team has come to the fore and is now getting their dues. “Things are changing. But if we don’t back female athletes in different sports then there isn’t a road ahead.”

The company has Esha Deol as its brand ambassador. “We were looking for someone who is a known face and also someone who holds similar beliefs in sports, fitness and athleticism in general. Esha just kind of ticked all the boxes for us. We know the kind of dhoom she created at her peak in terms of fitness. Even today though she is the mother of two children her commitment to fitness has been phenomenal. She has also been a sports person herself. She understands the hardwork and commitment that goes into succeeding. It kind of made perfect sense when we reached out to her to work with.”

The campaign being run is called ‘Own Your Game’. “When we were thinking about how we wanted ENGN to be understood, perceived and what it stands for we saw that owning your game is important. Every female athlete of ours if you go into the details and look at it each one lives this philosophy. They have overcome challenges that one is not aware of whether it is personal, health or financial. They have given their 100 per cent to their sport. Deol’s classic handball shot has gotten us a great response.”

The campaign started in the digital realm. Now it is going into outdoor, print. A TVC is being worked upon now. The company’s parent Varanium is a tech company. The entire backend of Varanium cloud is in place. Sot it gives a ecommerce as a service platform to ENGN’s products. Varanium was working on fashion and lifestyle products and ENGN was the missing piece. From warehousing to ecommerce, CRM, delivery, logistics all of this is managed by the Group companies.

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