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Sisters In Sweat is all about sisterhood and sports

This Bengaluru and Mumbai-based community helms the fitness and sport market for women and aims to create long-lasting connections.
Sisters In Sweat

The sisterhood among these women might not be because of a pair of jeans, like the movie, but it is about the common love for fitness and sports. Sisters In Sweat, also known as SIS, is considered to be India’s largest sport and wellness community exclusively for women. Started in 2017, Sisters In Sweat is a community by the women, for the women. Currently operational only in Bengaluru and Mumbai, the community now has more than 6,000 women as members from different walks of life.

Tanvie Hans, a footballer and co-founder of Sisters In Sweat, shares that she met her business partner Swetha Subbiah, who is a fitness coach, thanks to a Nike campaign. Later Subbiah, who is based in Bengaluru became Hans’ “main social contact” when she moved from Delhi to Bengaluru in 2017. “I’m not big on parties,” says 33-year-old Hans, “but one evening [back in 2017], Sweta convinced me to go out and introduced me to a friend of hers as a footballer and she got excited and asked if I could teach her and some of her girl-friends how to play.” The duo decided to conduct a one-time session because they had full-time jobs at the moment. “We booked a small ground and expected some three to four women to turn up, where they would have a good time and it would be done and dusted,” says Hans.

The first session was designed in the same way as they currently do—a 90-minute session keeping in mind the age of the women, shares Hans. “Most women for the session were in their mid-30s so we had to make sure that if we are teaching them football, their bodies should be ready for it because they are slightly older women who have never played before or played years ago in school.” The 90-minute session was designed for them to have a good time with music playing on the ground. Fitness coach Subbiah handled the warm-up thoroughly to make sure the women’s bodies were ready for the kind of movement required in football. After that, Hans took over as the coach and made the women do basic football drills.

This session saw 17 women showing up and they requested more sessions every weekend. “This eventually snowballed into this massive community,” says Hans.

Sisters in Sweat

Photo: Sisters In Sweat

The need for this community

“I think there is a big gap in the market in terms of opportunity and lack of access, especially in sports,” says Hans. She also adds that women in the sports industry are better equipped because they have witnessed the challenges and struggles firsthand. “After school and college,” she says, “we have noticed that girls tend to drop out of sport and they don’t see sport as a fitness option or even a social option unlike their male counterparts who still have groups to play cricket or football but girls don’t do that after a certain age.”

“We experienced this first-hand and recognised a gap in the market so decided to give women a platform, opportunity, and access to play.” The community takes pride in being inclusive regardless of their athletic ability, age, socio-economic status, etc. Mumbai-based marketing professional, Sanjana Sanjay, also feels that the “best thing” about the community is that it is inclusive.

Sports and beyond

As of now, SIS offers multiple sports formats such as football, basketball, running, rugby, badminton, frisbee, swimming, and more. They also have other wellness sessions such as yoga, Pilates, indoor rock climbing, and more. “We cater to beginners and intermediate players. If you come for a significant amount of time for our beginner session, you can graduate to our intermediate sessions,” explains Hans. They have sessions every week where each sport gets its particular day. Hans shares that they also have monthly tournaments with competitive events to progress. “Our Sweat Fest is also a big event that mostly happens every quarter. We combine three fitness-related formats such as 30 minutes of yoga, followed by 30 minutes of pilaxing—a combination of boxing and Pilates, and end with a 30-minute dance session.”

However, SIS goes beyond just sports and wellness. “We also have other social events such as karaoke nights, pizza-making, wine tasting, and other sessions. At the end of the day, we are known for our sports sessions but we recognised that women have this camaraderie and sisterhood and that is essentially what we are reaching now,” says Hans.

Sisters in Sweat

Photos: Sisters In Sweat

It is these sessions and events that have also ensured members such as Sanjay and 27-year-old Eesha Mehta, keep coming back session after session. “This got me back to sports and workout and added a fun experience because otherwise it just used to be gym,” says Mehta. “I like that I can get back to sports and this has connected me to people whom I would not have met otherwise. Thanks to this [SIS], I have a good friend group I can connect to.” For Mehta, who is a finance professional, these sessions are also an escape.

Even for 27-year-old Sanjay, this community immediately became her unofficial weekend plan. “It’s incredible that this community is only for women and they are bringing them together to play a sport they haven’t played for years and to teach them,” she shares. One of the incidents she recalls is doing the most mundane things but still having fun. “Every Saturday,” she says, “we start playing at 6.30 am till around 8 am, then go eat breakfast and sometimes we have even stayed together till 9 pm. We have done this week after week and we have bonded so well that it is always fun.”

Challenges faced

Hans believes that they have been growing slowly and that’s because “we don’t offer any physical products. [With our sessions], we offer a feeling. To serve this purpose, we need to grow slowly and need to have a certain kind of connection with every member. That is why our growth is intentionally slow.” Another major challenge is in terms of building an all-women’s team. The duo finds it extremely difficult to find women who are passionate, committed, have the right skill set, and want to grow with the team. “My [business] partner and I,” says Hans, “don’t have a blueprint because no one else is doing this in the market. So, we can’t take notes from other companies or brands and have to make decisions and improvise as we go. We can move in any direction but we have not looked much into it because we don’t have that kind of bandwidth.”

Sisters In Sweat

Co-founders Tanvie Hans and Swetha Subbiah. Photos: Sisters In Sweat

Future plans

SIS expanded to Mumbai in 2022 because it felt like a natural move to them as their community grew. However, Hans admits that they are looking at expanding to other cities. “The way we are looking at it is that we supply only after the demand and not the other way around. It is not like we do something and hope it does well. We have a pulse of where the demand is, what the women are demanding and we move basis that rather than the other way around.” She shares how this year they will launch SIS in Delhi-NCR.

“We also want to cater to the women employees of companies and have programmes for them. Besides that, we also want to expand our travel vertical.” The community has organised a trip for the member sisters to Andaman & Nicobar. “We want to build that further and innovate their experiences.”

Their ultimate vision is to be present in pan-India and to be a household name. “The moment you think of women or wellness—in any aspect, be it mental or physical in India—we want you to think of us,” Hans concludes.