The IPO of Campus Activewear, which sells more shoes than the likes of Nike and Adidas in India, propels its founder into the billionaires club.


In a volatile week for its stock market, India has minted a new billionaire. Hari Krishan Agarwal, 66, founder of Delhi-based Campus Activewear, entered the three-comma club after the stellar IPO of his sports shoes company. Shares of Campus Activewear listed at a handsome 23% premium to the IPO price. Agarwal’s 74% stake is now worth around $1 billion.

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The $9 billion Indian footwear industry has spawned three billionaires in recent years. Delhi-based brothers Mukand Lal Dua and Ramesh Kumar Dua, who run the $350 million (revenue) Relaxo Footwear, which sells everything from casual sandals to formal shoes; and Rafique Malik, who took his $107 million (revenue), Mumbai-based Metro Brands public only last December. (Though Metro listed at a 13% discount).

Agarwal’s tryst with entrepreneurship began in 1983 when he founded the “Action” sports shoe brand. In 2005, he launched “Campus” sports shoes for prices under $10. The budget pricing helped Campus make big enough strides to compete with global brands such as Nike, Adidas and Puma, which sell sports shoes for upwards of $35.

“He capitalized on the huge vacuum in the Indian sports shoe market—in the $10 to $40 price range,” says Campus’ chief financial officer Raman Chawla.

An April 2022 report by Gurgaon consulting firm Technopak notes that in fiscal 2021, Campus was India’s largest player in the branded sports and athleisure (fusion of “athletic” and “leisure”) segment, both in value and number of shoes. It has a 17% market share by value and nearly 25% by volume.

Campus sold 13 million pairs in 2021, notching up $94 million in revenue. This was a slight dip from the previous year’s revenue of $95 million, due to the pandemic, but sales are marching upward again: Campus recorded revenue of $111 million for the nine months ended December 2021.

Analysts expect homegrown Campus to benefit further as sports shoes is the fastest growing segment within the footwear sector. And they reckon that demand for such shoes is well-poised to keep rising. The per-capita spend on athleisure and sports products in India is only $1.9 versus $33.8 in China and $227.3 in the U.S., according to Technopak.

This potential for growth drew private equity firm TPG and billionaire Anil Rai Gupta, who controls electrical goods producer Havells. They invested in Campus in 2018 and continue to hold stakes of 7.6% and 2%, respectively, even after selling some of their shares in the IPO.

“Athleisure is a very under-penetrated segment,” says Sneha Poddar, research analyst at Mumbai investment house Motilal Oswal. “Campus is also extending its geographical reach.” The main market for Campus consists of smaller cities in northern and eastern India, but it’s now looking at bigger metros and establishing a nationwide footprint. “Plus it’s expanding the product range from sports shoes to casual shoes as well,” says Poddar.

Going public notwithstanding, Campus remains a family affair. Agarwal’s son Nikhil Aggarwal, 37, an industrial engineer from Purdue University, started working at Campus in 2008 and became CEO nine years later. Nikhil’s wife Prerna is the chief marketing officer.

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