There is no comforting factor than slipping a perfect pair of shoes onto your feet. Shoes are just not remained an accessory which completes the sartorial get-up. However, with changing times shoes too are going through a major shift and their status is just not confined to fashion accessory. There are many budding entrepreneurs who are putting their heart and soul into making the shoes ‘Smart’ which by far many conventional shoe brand have failed to achieve.
These young entrepreneurs are changing the Indian footwear industry forever. Let’s shed on the entrepreneurial journey of few and what inspired them to come up with such innovative products.
Products and Innovations
Ayush Diwan Khurana, Founder, and Owner, Modello Domani has launched a footwear brand which offers vegan and pure leather variants. The company has 200+ ready to wear designs on it's online as well as stores. Moreover, the brand offers unique service called ‘picture to product customization’ where a customer can create a pair just by sharing a picture of the shoes. Also, there have been several celebrities spotted in Modello Domani shoes from time and again.
Khurana got his inspiration from fast fashion retailer Zara when this Spanish brand launched its loafers here in Delhi sometime in 2010 it was an instant hit. “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 realize that in fact many international brands were manufactured right here in India,” he said.
Following the motto of “Happy feet for all” Khurana launched Modello Domani in May 2015 keeping in mind to make affordable luxury premium fashion. As of now, the brand is retailed via few designer boutiques across South Delhi in collaborations along with its flagship store located in South Delhi, near Defence Colony area. Modello Domani is also available online via its exclusive store and leading marketplaces such as Myntra.
Moreover, the company is eyeing on opening a few stand along outlets in Mumbai, Chandigarh, few airport locations and then expanding to UAE in the future. The company is also open to exploring franchise expansion via FOFO model where the owner of the store will have more control over the operations of the store. “Since we feel that a local business will definitely help and have a better idea about the sales pattern and demand in their local markets,” Ayush said.
MONROW shoes is yet another brand carving a niche in the footwear segment. Ventured by Veena Ashiya the brand is started with an intention of bringing freedom of movement without compromising on fashion element. The brand is touted to scan 3000 Indian women's feet to understand the shape of feet better and build whole collection keeping Indian feet shape in mind. Speaking of the brand, Veena said, “There is a huge gap for good looking comfortable shoes. Now young Indian women are not willing to give up fashion for neither comfort nor the other way round. We are building Monrow for Fun, Active women who want to dance to their hearts any time any place. That is true freedom of movement.”
Monrow is one of the organically fastest growing women shoe brands in India with 20 stores in 18 months. The brand is also present at Shoppers Stop, Future Group, Reliance and Centro are among the strongest believers of the brand signing us up for 150 stores in next 4 years.
The company is in process of ideating its very first experience store. As Ashiya believes that run of the mill physical stores is dead. People no more come to your store just because you are in a mall. “We want to build a space where true shoe lovers feel like partying. Won’t it be great to have a little dance floor in the store where you can see whether your new heels can be your true dancing partner?”, she said.
Incepted in 2015, Whitesoul.in is yet another brand which is clearly aligned its vision with the national and global standards of the e-commerce industry with the ability to spot business opportunities not apparent to others in the industry. Undoubtedly, Whitesoul is India's first 100% leather sneaker brand that caters to people aged 18-35 yrs old.
Speaking of the brand journey, Mayush Kukreja, Founder, Whitesoul.in informed, “As an entrepreneur, there is always dedication and will to bring to the table something new and refreshing for your customers. Considering the fact that we were going to enter a marketplace with so many existing players, we at Whitesoul constantly look 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 is primarily managing the distribution via its e-commerce website and has no plans to come up with its exclusive offline store.
Retail challenges for start-up footwear
Indian footwear industry is the second largest in the world. It also stands second in the world in terms of footwear producers which contributes to approximately 9.57% of world’s footwear production.
The growth in Indian fashion and lifestyle marketplace has stimulated to the footwear industry as well. It has developed as a fashion and style category from a basic need-based industry. Currently, a major part of India’s fashion market is digitally influenced and being a part of the e-commerce world has given us the independence to bring continuous innovation through our products. For now, the industry is dominated by established players such as Bata, Aldo, and Clarks etc. And, it is not at all easy for start-up brand to find their feet in this industry.
“Challenges like timely and well-organized delivery of products, stock inventory, Higher customer Initiated Returns (CIR), Increased the cost of Reverse Logistics, Managing Multiple Warehouses and Stores, Easy transition to present Taxation policies, Effective Utilization of stock and Seamless management of returns and cancellations are faced by us on a regular basis. But as an enthusiastic and ever-evolving start-up brand we thrive to meet these challenges with utmost courage and overcome them or rather deal with it with confidence at present as well as in the long run, said Kukreja.
With 1.2 billion population one might look at market size as a great opportunity but this opportunity has huge operational cost. Going with Kukreja, Veena said, “This business is not for faint-hearted people. Inventory management, supply chain, size management all of these compounded can kill any team. I feel founder's passion, solid execution-oriented team and being truly listening to your consumer is the only way you can win Shoe game.”
No doubt, for the shoe brands in India, the market is much more competitive at present as compared to the past. With the birth of various international and local brands, the challenges for shoe brands have increased significantly. The only way out is to constantly evolve and experiment with giving the best your patrons.