Founded in 1894, Bata is a leading shoemaker by volume. Bata has been holding a unique place in the hearts of Indians for more than 85 years. Probably the only footwear brand that offers footwear and accessories for the entire family, Bata has redefined the modern footwear industry in India. It has established a leadership position in the industry and is the most trusted name in branded footwear. It sells 48 million pairs of footwear every year and serves to over 120,000 customers almost every day.
Bata India is the largest footwear retailer in India, offering footwear, accessories, and bags across brands like Bata, Hush Puppies, Naturalizer, Power, Marie Claire, Weinbrenner, North Star, Scholl, Bata Comfit and Bubblegummers to name a few. It retails in over 1400 Bata stores, on bata.in and in thousands of multi-brand footwear dealer stores pan-India. In an exclusive conversation Kataria sheds light on the many important aspects of the brand.
Bata is one of the pioneers of modern footwear retailing in India. In fact, in all these years there has been a drastic change in the position of the brand as well (from value to premium). How would you sum up the journey so far?
The past few years have seen massive changeswhere the brand has become more relatable and desirable for India’s millennials. It’s a process of measured transformation, and we are making good progress in creating a youthful, contemporary imagery for the brand. We began with transforming our retail stores, where we introduced our global design ‘Red Store Concept’, giving a new face to Bata in India.
We also evolved in design space with several spectacular collections throughout the year. From launching the in-trend chunky soles in North Star to sporty options from Power tonewly introduced rugged CAT collection, stylish and chic options from Bata Red Label to premium articles from Hush Puppies and Naturalizer, our store would offer a one stop shop for customers’ footwear & accessories needs.
Our on-air advertising in the last year began with an authentic tonality that accepted the image Bata had and the one it has evolved to now. We launched the ‘Surprisingly Bata’ campaign with Kriti Sanon to communicate the new spirit of the brand which helped us get the attention of audiences and drive home the message that Bata has much more to offer than school shoes; that it’s a brand that offers fashionable, casual and comfortable footwear for multiple occasions.
We have leveraged our retail assets and a combination of traditional and new-age media to connect better with consumers and reinforce the “surprises” that await them in a Bata store. Bata’s Happy Feet Centers pamper customerswith services such 3D foot-scan for customized in-soles, Foot Spatorelieve aching muscles and Shoe Spato keep footwear as good as new.
What is your assessment about the Indian footwear market?
India is the second largest footwear producer in the world and remains ever-growing. Moreover, the growth in this market is further pushed by gradual rise of fashion and lifestyle market in the country. From a basic need-based industry to an indispensable part of overall fashion market, footwear industry has come a long way.
The popular culture and the aesthetic these days has moved towards more casual, even for work, as against the formal office trend few years back Therefore, brands are leaving no stone unturned to resonate well with young India and introducing many ranges every season.
With consumers increasingly shifting towards fitness as a lifestyle, the demand for performance shoes has seen an upward trend leading to brands introducing one innovation after the other to beat the competition.Similarly, Bata’s efforts on the product front are led by technology-based comfort & fitness collections and our design-driven fashion and casual ranges that are introduced frequently into our stores. We call it ‘New Arrivals Every Friday’, essentially new designs coming in every week.
What is your growth strategy beyond the top eight cities? How are you looking to solidifying the brand presence in tier III and IV cities?
Bata is strengthening its commitment to expand and grow its Indian operations andwe have identified Tier 2-4 cities where we are broadening our network through the franchise model. We already have over 167 franchise stores across the country.
We have identified 180 markets in smaller cities, where we are seeking franchise partners to expand over the next 2-3 years. We are calling partners to bring in a retail space of 1000 – 1200 sq. ft and an experience of retailing. Franchisees will have access to Bata’s best-selling products, international brands, new launches and superior understanding of retailing. We aim to open 500 stores in the next 5 years.
Keeping in mind the growing customer preferences, what’s your omni-channel strategy? Is booming e-commerce an opportunity? What’s your online pivot?
Bata has rolled out a full suite of Omni-Channel solutions, both online and offline. With the help of this technology, we aim to penetrate deeper in the country enabling our consumers to order Bata products across 700+ towns. We aim to make the entire customer journey with the brand more personalized and be able to meet the consumer in the decision phase, whether in a physical store or online. Driven by the cross-channel promotions and performance-driven e-commerce marketing campaigns, customers can now order products across the country.
Bata’s program- ‘From Anywhere To Anywhere’ introduced new modules to enhance the omni-channel approach. “Bata’s home delivery service” is connected to more than 770 stores with shared inventory, which has helped increase our retail sales due to in-store and online ordering. The service is one of the most comprehensible omni-channel projects in the country. We are optimizing our supply-chain process by providing the customer with their desired product to their doorstep.
What all innovations have been introduced by the company this year – in terms of design, customer loyalty, technology, among others.
In the past year, we have aggressively expanded our footprint through our franchising model along with a focus on the e-commerce led omni-channel platform, making Bata accessible across the length and breadth of the country. Our continuous focus on innovation, New Arrivals Every Friday initiative, Flagship stores having Experience Centers and campaigns inviting younger consumers helped us progress our journey to be a younger and vibrant retail brand. Furthermore, we have added new retail stores in malls and prime locations to enhance the retail footprint.
The introduction of our ‘Red Store Concept’ in India gave a significant boost to our VMRD initiatives. We continue to go strong with our‘Reuse, Reduce, Recycle’ initiative across our manufacturing, retail and product operations through various initiatives. We introduced the newly upgraded Bata flagship store in Infinity Mall which is also the largest retail store in Mumbai. With focus on product innovation & premiumization, this 6000 sqft store boasts of immersive brand experiences, a sneaker studio, wide assortment of fashion and working women styles and premium collections from Bata Comfit, Hush Puppies, Naturalizer & Caterpillar.
It’s not just the store design that we are improving, but also the in-store experience that we offer our customers. Even in this increasingly digital age, the retail store is still the most direct point of customer engagement; the point where their perception about the brand changes for the better or the worse. We have trained and empowered our staff to be knowledgeable, helpful, and trustworthy everyday ambassadors for brand. These initiatives, along with new, contemporary collections in Bata Casuals, Bata Red Label, the 9to9 ladies’ range, and Power and North Star, have helped us increase footfalls and strengthen the brand equity among the youth.
According to you, how was 2019 for the footwear market overall? What can be expected in 2020?
The footwear is part fashion and apparel category which experienced a bit of slowdown in 2019. Bata India continues to sustain its leadership in the retail sector. Our momentum is driven on the back of continuous investment done over the past few years in areas of product-innovation, store renovation, customer experience and marketing.