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Make In India

Marathon man Milind Soman now runs with a womenwear brand

Sindhu Kashyap
28th Jan 2017
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Started by Darshan M and Milind Soman, Deivee is an active wear brand designed just for Indian women. The brand was launched in Bengaluru on Wednesday by Darshan, Milind and Telugu film star Allu Sirish, who is also an investor in it.

Forty-year-old Sudha Krishnan recently started her morning jog and yoga routine after a gap. Though she had a new pair of joggers, she decided to borrow her husband’s t-shirt and tracks for the routine, but she wasn’t entirely comfortable in them. The t-shirt kept riding up exposing her skin much to her discomfort.

Looking at problems like these, 39-year-old Darshan decided to solve it. He is credited with launching the world’s first midnight marathon, Bangalore Midnight Marathon, Channel Coorg and IPL-style motorsport, the i1 Super Series, to name a few.

Milind Soman with the team @Deivee

Focus on Indian body types

He says, “When it comes to fitness majority of Indian women today don’t lack motivation, they lack the right equipment. I would see women wearing salwars and going out for walks. So I decided to do something about it. Looking at other brands and speaking to a vast sample size, we realised that most fitness wear available in the market didn’t make products for Indian body types.”

Darshan approached Milind with the idea, whom he had known earlier, and after discussions they decided to launch a brand that was focused on designing organic wear for women.

Designing something that works

The first line of products are focused on yoga wear, and will soon include other forms of sports and performance wear. For Milind, who dons several hats as an actor, model, fitness evangelist and the founder of Pinkathon, the idea was something that he could relate to instantly. He says;

“I have seen several women run with their sarees and shoes or kurtis and shoes. It looks uncomfortable, but as a garment most women seem to be comfortable with. I was thinking along the lines of creating an active wear saree, but then when Darshan came up with the idea of Deivee the synergies were perfect and I joined onboard.”
(L-R) Darshan M, Allu Sirish, Milind Soman

Building the team

Darshan also roped in Telugu film start Allu Sirish as an angel investor. But building a brand and a team focused on the same vision is difficult. Darshan says,

“There are many highly funded startups who have the money and resources. And many youngsters with little work experience are getting paid more than they should. And most of them are focused on how much they will earn rather than how much they will learn.”

However, Darshan was able to rope in a team of passionate people who aren’t in the company for money. Darshan says that with what he is paying them they possibly cannot make ends meet, so some of them look at alternative sources of money. But they continue to stick on because they love what they are doing and believe in it. Most of the employees have come in through references.

Being clear about creating great products from the beginning, the team didn’t focus on cost. Darshan says it wasn't like there was a gap between Nike and Lakhani so let’s launch a brand. Since price wasn’t an issue, the team focused on getting the best quality stuff manufactured.

The Deivee Team

Making in India

Darshan says,

“If you go anywhere in the world, some of the finest stuff will say ‘Made in India.’ There are great products being made in India. But an Indian brand will buy from China. So we wanted to change that and focus on organic products. But if I go to Tirupur, there will be many people who will say that they would give you organic wear, but the certifications and paperwork won’t be in place. Authenticity is important for us. The ones who had the certifications weren’t open to working with startups.”

After Milind and Darshan kept meeting factory owners and selling their vision to them, some of them started working with Deivee. The yoga wear range is priced from Rs 900 to Rs 1,800. Currently, Deivee has an online presence, and it has also tied up with Amazon and Flipkart.

The team has roped in designers for its products. It gets them tested with a few sample sizes before launching online. The team has also developed a ‘Performance Kurti,’ – which is made of imported performance fabrics using active evaporation technology and antimicrobial finishes.

The yoga wear market

Internationally, the market for yoga wear is well-defined and has several players like Prana and Yogasmoga. In India, brands have to compete with smaller players like Do u speak Green and Isha Shoppe and bigger ones like Urban Yoga.

The segment has several players entering the market. Apart from these, the bigger yoga centres have their own in-house brands and stores.

Launched in 2005 by Indus League of Future Lifestyle Group, Urban Yoga is one of the biggest brands in the Indian yoga wear segment. The size of the yoga wear market in the US is estimated to be close to $27 billion dollars. If global trends are anything to go by, yoga wear is fast replacing everyday casual clothing. Says Sirish,

“Athleisure is a global trend and if you look at all the global brands they are strongly positioned in that segment. Deivee is bang in middle of that trend.” Deivee currently is looking to raise Rs 4 crore in funding.

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