Online shopping for innerwear has its legion of devoted fans in India, who swear by the added comfort, privacy, choice and affordability that it promises. Younger buyers, in particular, are drawn to the distinctive fabric choices, innovative designs, and inclusivity on offer.

Little wonder the country has the second highest number of Internet-first innerwear brands — more than 60 at last count — globally, after the US. Freecultr, Bummer, Almo, HealthFab, Modern Crew, Happie Curves, Bunny Corset, Butt-Chique, FIMS Fashion, One8 Innerwear, Miri, Ellixy, TRYB, Verrnon, Tromko, Oneleph, and Briefly are among the prominent names in India.

Taking on the might of legacy brands, the Internet-first innerwear brands are also grabbing the attention of investors, raising $162 million till date, according to data research firm Tracxn.

In just the last five years, 25 innerwear start-ups were launched, with the sector pulling in $81.3 million funding. 

Funding landscape

Among the generously funded bigger D2C innerwear brands in India are Zivame, which has raised $73.5 million to date, XYXX ($35.3 million), and Clovia ($24.8 million). 

The new-age companies are giving stiff competition to entrenched giants, as more and more Indians revel in the availability of choice and convenience in online shopping, says Neha Singh, co-founder, Tracxn. 

“These D2C brands have started gaining the market from notable players like Lux, Jockey, Rupa, and others. Bummer has increased its revenue by 7-8 times in the previous two years,” she says.

Apart from style, the newer players are innovating for added comfort and use cases such as menstrual innerwear from Healthfab and eco-friendly innerwear from Bummer, among others. The privacy and judgment-free environment of online shopping is a major draw when scouting for a choice of intimate apparel, she adds. 

Design language 

Yogesh Kabra, founder and CEO of XYXX, credits the growth of online innerwear labels to rising disposable incomes, growing reach of e-commerce platforms, and the growing awareness and adoption of newer innerwear options, among other factors.

Yogesh Kabra, founder-CEO, XYXX Apparels

Yogesh Kabra, founder-CEO, XYXX Apparels

“Operating primarily through our online platform, we can reach customers directly, ensuring a wider geographic reach. Our online platform has played a crucial role in building customer loyalty, with our annual retention on the website at 30-35 per cent,” he says.

The brand is growing 100 per cent year-on-year, with digital channels leading the growth in the past year, he adds. 

On the start-up’s omnichannel expansion, he says it has over 22,000-plus retail touchpoints, through general trade and modern trade formats, in 160-plus cities and towns across India.

XYXX’s D2C channel has achieved 4x growth in the past financial year, both in revenue and profitability, and currently operates with a positive contribution margin (which includes fixed costs in addition to variable costs). Website sales have grown 52 per cent in FY24 compared to FY23. 

In November last year, the company expanded its sales to quick commerce platforms such as BlinkIt (29 cities), Swiggy Instamart and Zepto, and has since grown 20 per cent month-on-month.

Ripe for disruption

Sulay Lavsi, founder and CEO of Bummer, points out that any category that has long been dominated by incumbent brands is always ripe for disruption. 

Sulay Lavsi, founder and CEO of Bummer

Sulay Lavsi, founder and CEO of Bummer

In the billion-dollar apparels market, every other category, including socks and accessories, had been disrupted, with innerwear alone being the outlier so far. 

For Bummer, the USP has been catering to the changing needs and demands of millennial and GenZ consumers. “The incumbent brands were trying the same design and brand language to appeal to all age categories without differentiation. This monotony is not true for any other form of fashion; the cyclic shift was missing in innerwear, and that is the differentiation we are trying to build,” Lavsi says.

He also notes that consumer behavior has been changing dramatically as people care more, think more, and are more particular about the kind of innerwear they use, and the start-ups in this space are catering to this evolving demand. 

Offline for bottomline

While the show is going great guns online, the new-age innerwear disruptors can achieve the scale of the industry biggies only by deepening their offline presence too. 

Direct-to-consumer underwear brand XYXX Apparels in available on quick commerce platforms too

Direct-to-consumer underwear brand XYXX Apparels in available on quick commerce platforms too

As Lavsi says, “Innerwear is largely dependent on general trade. For us to really be a threat to the Jockeys, Dollars and Rupas of the industry in the longer run, the next 70 per cent of the market must be achieved through both levers — modern and general trade. Bummer, too, is piloting across the country in tier 2, tier 3 cities in the next couple of months.”

The D2C consumer-wear space is currently experiencing a surge of investor attention due to multiple factors, chief among them India’s projected transition to a $3,000-per-capita GDP around 2025. 

“This economic growth has increased disposable income among Indian consumers, resulting in a noticeable shift in their preferences and choices. Today, they are no longer satisfied with ordinary products; instead, they seek offerings that allow them to express their individuality and showcase their unique ethos. This emerging trend has created a significant opportunity for businesses operating within the D2C consumer-wear industry,” says Anirudh A Damani, Director, Artha India Ventures.