[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Meet Minu Margeret, who went from being an ultimate frisbee champion to building a D2C brand
As an ultimate frisbee player during her MBA days at ISB Hyderabad, Minu Margeret had one major challenge -- finding the right fitness gear. This quest is what led her to found BlissClub, a community-first women's activewear brand, in March 2020.
“The idea from day one was to build a brand as a community. We want to stand for a very inclusive, a fitness-for-everyone kind of community. We don’t need anyone telling us that we are not fit based on the way we look. The idea is to bring a community of women together,” Minu says.
BlissClub started with multiple fun events and challenges through 2020 – all online. The events included the largest yoga class for women in India, 21 days of Bliss challenge, and others. It now sells a range of activewear for women, starting with leggings.
The community is interactive, with WhatsApp groups and Instagram pages, and has organic conversations.
Building an activewear brand
Minu says her journey has been “different”. After spending a number of years working in corporates like Goldman Sachs, Wipro, and Unilever, and after a stint at PhonePe, Minu knew she had to start up.
Hence, in 2019, she looked closely at fitness for women.
“Fitness has been a really large part of my life – from childhood to my adult life. I have always been in some sort of sport and been an active person. I had picked up ultimate frisbee in ISB; it is a B-school sport, and stuck to it after,” Minu says.
She adds that she would struggle to find activewear as the products available in India are “problematic”.
“When I used to play ultimate, we had practice at 6.30 am. I would leave my home at 5.30 am, and I used to wear shorts. Now the problem is knee-length shorts are not available for women. And in India, going out at 5.30 in the morning in really short shorts is a problem. I would always wear boys shorts,” she recalls.
Minu says she also noticed that it was a problem for plus-sized women to find sports bras. “We are in 2021, and there is no apparel,” she says, adding that whenever she would travel abroad, she would end up picking several cheaper leggings and other products.
“I noticed these great products were made in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, or China. Ironically, I would go around half the way around the world to buy something made in my country,” she says.
The idea for BlissClub had taken root.
ScreenShot of MyBlissClub
A community first approach
But before she could start, in January 2020, Minu spent time to understand the space by speaking to the different category managers. She saw that India was the focus of most large active brands in the world, and this could be driven by women’s activewear.
Minu also realised that fitness in India is highly aspirational.
“People think fitness is those transformational photos of before and after, and the six-pack abs. It has been an end outcome of looking a certain way. But fitness is different. For me, it is a way of feeling happy; it’s the journey of spending some time with yourself every day, staying in tune with your mind and thoughts. It is my way of staying sane.”
That is how the name came about. Minu’s mission is to “spread happiness through movement” and the D2C brand has been built on this eths.
The market and the future
BlissClub’s products have been designed keeping the Indian woman body type and needs in mind. For example, there are hardly any activewear leggings with pockets – all BlissClub leggings have pockets to put away a phone/cash/headphones.
“We worked with the community to build the products. To understand what are the price points prevalent in the market, what products are available in the market for different women of different body types and shapes. It is the community that has built these products,” Minu says.
She adds that while designing 'The Ultimate Leggings’, she was dead sure “we needed pockets and loads of them”. “Pockets are honestly empowering; they liberate us from the shackles of having to carry a bag all the time. A pocket is not just a design element; it is a path to empowerment.”
She adds that she had a support system that was excited to help and give her all the support she needed. The manufacturing happens through vendors across different parts of the globe.
The startup has raised $2.25 million in seed funding led by Elevation Capital (previously SAIF Partners). The round also saw participation from Neeraj Arora, ex CBO, WhatsApp; Kunal Shah, Founder, CRED; Rahul Mehta, Managing Partner, DST; Pam Lee, Ex-Lululemon Executive; Ashish Goel, Founder, Urban Ladder; Chakradhar Gade, Founder, Country Delight; and Good Capital.
The athleisure market is fast growing, and has seen a spurt amid the pandemic, with reports suggesting a 30 to 35 percent rise. A Technavio report states that the athleisure market in India will grow by $80.74 billion between 2020 and 2024.
Apart from the other big brands for activewear, 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. Deivee is an activewear brand designed just for Indian women.
Minu says the BlissClub team’s focus is now to further build the brand, community, and invest in product development.