#Interview: Causevertsing comes handy when the product-led approach becomes saturating: Afsar Zaidi, HRX

Afsar Zaidi

In conversation with Social Samosa, Afsar Zaidi talks at length about building brand HRX, co-owned by Hrithik Roshan, changing consumer demands in the fitness industry, and influencer marketing.

With a vision to touch 1.3 billion Indian lives in the next 5 years, Bollywood hunk Hrithik Roshan and CEO Afsar Zaidi’s brand HRX aims to evolve at every stage of user’s changing needs and sentiments.

The fitness brand co-owned by Roshan and Exceed Entertainment recently announced the launch of ‘HRX active innerwear’ collection which uses advanced technology to comfort and boost endurance levels during workouts, with special product features that help users sustain a higher degree of exhaustion and strain. The launch was supported by a campaign, featuring Roshan- the brand ambassador himself.  

We get talking to Afsar Zaidi, Co-Founder, and CEO, HRX to know more about the campaign, HRX’s growth strategy, the digital marketing approach and more.


What took you so long to foray into the innerwear segment? The rationale behind launching it at this point in time? 

All the launches in HRX have been thought through in terms of category stack up and product priority. We are an activewear brand and our Innerwear also drives our USP and to get the product right took this amount of research and designing.

Fitness segment in India is in its evolving stages- we are a country of beginners and intermediaries in the majority and the product requirements of a user are also evolving with the increased usage. Hence our foray into the active Innerwear segment.

Isn’t the product niche-targeted being positioned as ‘sports performance innerwear’ and Why? 

HRX is an activewear/sportswear brand and to cater to the audience which is in the pursuit of their fitness goals one needs an entire gamut of products required for these users and super users, Sports performance innerwear happens to be an important category hence.

Having said that we haven’t alienated ourselves from lifestyle innerwear. Driven by our athleisure vibe, we have the category supported with enough choices in lifestyle as well as active innerwear segment- both for men and women.

How do you intend to boost the sales and grab consumer attention beyond the campaign launch? Are there any activities planned? 

For any category to register, a singular launch campaign is never sufficient. Our plans include promoting innerwear category on a regular basis through an all-rounded approach via brand stories, brand days, promotions, PR and social media.

What is the Insight behind the campaign? 

The Innerwear campaign was designed to showcase the insight “the real power lies within”. This is simply an extension of our core philosophy “to be the best version of yourself”. In a nutshell to become the best version of yourself, one needs to harness the power within.

Hence a super fit Hrithik was portrayed in active situations with the peek-a-boo of the HRX Innerwear.

How did you go about conceptualizing and executing it? What was the brief shared? 

The Innerwear campaign was designed to showcase the insight “the real power lies within”. This is simply an extension of our core philosophy “to be the best version of yourself”. In a nutshell to become the best version of yourself, one needs to harness the power within.

Hence a super fit Hrithik was portrayed in active situations with the peek-a-boo of the HRX Innerwear.

Also Read: Interview: 90% of our digital content is video led says Devarshy Ganguly, Dr. Oetker India

Do you think that the advertising in men’s innerwear category has evolved over the years? And how does HRX strategize to change with the running time and consumer trends?

When it comes to mass innerwear brands we still see Bollywood’s fittest men as endorsers. The TV commercials are borderline humorous highlighting fit, comfort or in some cases sex appeal.

Lately, we have also seen athletes and sports personalities becoming faces to this category which is an evolution and is in line with international innerwear brands.

HRX at its core continues to be a brand active enthusiast- it is an all-rounded fitness brand which offers one with all the products he or she may require for the pursuit of their fitness journey. So unlike core innerwear brands, our ethos will always be presented holistically as fitness and active brand.

5 years as an entrepreneur with HRX. How has the journey been so far? 

Exhilarating, exciting, every bit fresh and encouraging. HRX has actually become an example that we have started looking up to, not just professionally but also personally.

How has HRX grown y-o-y? 

We have clocked a 100% growth Y-o-Y since the last 3 years.

Also, what has been the strategy to outdo the competition and stand apart? 

The way we are structured, we don’t see any direct competitions in our space. We are the first homegrown fitness brand in India. We have multiple partners with a plethora of products and service offerings under our umbrella. We hold our vision of touching 1.3 billion Indian lives in all seriousness and should be able to execute it in the next 5 years.

What role has digital played in HRX’s growth? What has been your digital marketing strategy?

Digital platforms are the most appropriate way of reaching audiences today. The Tv appointment viewing has shrunken and digital has emerged to be the media with majority mind share.

Digital also is measurable since a view translates into a click and a click into a session and a session into a transaction. RoI measurement is hence enabled.

Digital most importantly lets us know who the exact consumer and target audience for HRX is and enables us to reach out to them again and again and with a specific focus.

Please shed some light on your media mix? How much of the overall marketing pie does digital occupy?

80% is ATL and 20% is BTL- Of the 80% ATL- digital serves as the most preferred platform for advertising.

What is your take on the ‘storytelling’ and ’causevertising’ wave in advertising? Does it work for the brand in terms of sales? How has HRX dealt with it?   

Storytelling just makes a brand narrative believable and relatable. It’s almost like a convincing demonstration of what a brand or a product can do for the user.

Causevertsing comes handy when the product-led approach becomes saturating after a brand. Brands resort to cause led approach for breaking the clutter and helping create a natural affinity for itself by emerging as real and caring.

At HRX we tied up with Paralympics athletes 3 years ago to promote the unsung heroes who win our country medals at the event. We are still working on ways of associating ourselves with real everyday athletes and meritorious people who need an acknowledgment from society and an uplifting platform to establish their genius in the public eye.

Although Hrithik’s presence is adequate for the brand value, have you also been involved in influencer marketing? If yes, what has been the result and how effective has it been? 

Hrithik for us is the guiding force- the brand HRX is built on him and his life lessons. That doesn’t necessarily translate into him becoming the face of the brand.

Therefore, like any other brand, we also seek solace in finding the right spokesperson who lives the HRX life. Instead of influencers, we believe in evangelists. Most of our influencer force is organic in nature and by the pull that is these people have agreed to be the spokesperson for HRX after being convinced of the brand values and their relationship with us and these relationships are driven very differently. E.g. Every HRX team member knows each of these influencers personally and works out or runs with them or simply hangs out with them too.