In the Indian footwear industry, which claims to be the second largest in the world, there is wide scope for fresh entrepreneurs to reinvent the game with the introduction of innovative product offerings. Here’s a report providing insights into this growing industry by Shipra Srivastava
Inventors and entrepreneurs are revolutionizing shoe production and business in India. Young entrepreneurs are thinking shoes that will help offer almost infinite customization, comfort married to heels, affordable super leather luxury and thinking and re-thinking need based shoes according medical needs, vegan shoes for animal lovers et all.
Take the example of Ayush Diwan Khurana, founder and owner of Modello Domani, a footwear brand that offers vegan and pure leather variants. Khurana got his inspiration from fast fashion retailer Zara when this Spanish brand launched its loafers in Delhi sometime in 2010. The product became a huge hit and that impressed Khurana no end. “It was a huge rage back then. Even I bought a couple of pairs and later a family relative who is in the shoe industry told me that they were in fact made in Agra itself. So I backtracked the production out of curiosity only to realise that in fact many international brands are manufactured right here in India,” he says.
With its slogan of “happy feet for all”, Khurana launched Modello Domani in May 2015, keeping in mind the segment of affordable luxury premium fashion. As of now, the brand is retailed via a few designer boutiques across South Delhi along with its flagship store located in South Delhi, near Defence Colony. Modello Domani is also available online via its exclusive store and other leading marketplaces such as Myntra. Moreover, the company is eyeing on opening a few stand-alone outlets in Mumbai, Chandigarh, selected airports, etc. while considering the UAE market too.
The Monrow brand of shoes is yet another brand carving a niche in the footwear segment. A venture floated by Veena Ashiya, the brand was launched with the intention of promoting “freedom of movement without compromising on the fashion element”. The brand has apparently scanned 3,000 Indian women’s feet to understand the shape of feet better and build up a portfolio that caters to all. Says Ashiya: “There is a huge gap for good looking comfortable shoes. Young Indian women want both comfort and smartness and that’s where we step in. We are building Monrow for active, fun-loving women who, while wearing comfortable shoes to work, would also like to burn the dance floor in perfect shoes. That is true freedom of movement.” The brand has opened 20 stores in 18 months and is also present at Shoppers Stop, Future Group, Reliance and Centro. The big plan is to have 150 stores in the next four years. In the pipeline is also a project to set up its first ‘experience’ store.
Then there is Whitesoul.in, set up in 2015. It’s a brand that offers leather sneakers and does so in tune with the growing opportunities that the national and global e-commerce segment has to offer. As a first-of-its-kind offering 100% leather sneaker, the brand primarily targets those in the age group of 18-35. Speaking of the brand’ journey, Mayush Kukreja, the founder of Whitesoul.in, says, “As an entrepreneur there is always dedication and the will to bring to the table something new and refreshing for customers. Considering the fact that we were going to enter a marketplace with so many existing players, we at Whitesoul have constantly looked for innovative offerings in order to serve the best to our patrons. Our main objective is to bridge the gap by offering subtle yet stylish sneakers to the middle-aged and young audience without having to compromise on the quality of the product.” The company manages the distribution via its e-commerce website and has no immediate plans to come up with an exclusive offline store.
The Way Forward
As is the case with any other industry where trends change fast, the footwear segment has its fair share of challenges too. “Challenges like timely delivery, stock inventory, higher returns, increased cost of reverse logistics, management of multiple warehouses and stores, easy transition to present taxation policies, effective utilisation of stock, and seamless management of returns and cancellations are faced by us on a regular basis. But as an enthusiastic and ever-evolving startup brand we thrive to meet these challenges with utmost courage and overcome or rather deal with them with confidence. And that’s going to be our philosophy for the long run as well,” says Kukreja.
With a population of 1.2 billion one might look at the market size as a great opportunity. However, what deters many is the huge operational cost. As Veena Ashiya puts it, “This business is not for the faint-hearted. I feel that the founder’s passion, solid execution-oriented team and keeping your ear glued to what the customer has to say are some of the crucial elements that can help you win the game.” Moreover, with both local and international brands vying for attention from the customers, the only way to survive and create a long-term growth curve is to keep evolving all the time. As the industry players put it, innovate, innovate and simply innovate!