How Global Footwear Brand BIRKENSTOCK is Mulling India Expansion?

In an exclusive interview, Jens Hattab, Regional Managing Director Middle East Africa India for BIRKENSTOCK, talks about brand's expansion plans in India.
How Global Footwear Brand BIRKENSTOCK is Mulling India Expansion?
Jens Hattab

Germany’s largest shoe manufacturer BIRKENSTOCK has just forayed Indian market as the part of global expansion strategy. The brand has just opened its online store last month which will shortly followed by first  mono-brand store in Delhi, where comprehensive range of classic sandals for men, women and children and closed shoes, as well as the feminine models from the Papillio range will be available. 

Hattab has been preparing the company’s entry into the market together with his staff. He is responsible for the business growth and the general operations in this area and gained more than 20 years of experience in the international footwear and fashion business in this region of the world. Most recently, he worked as managing director and distributor for various renowned international brands. 

How do you sort of rationalize the right time for BIRKENSTOCK to foray Indian market considering the complexity of this market? What is your assessment about India’s fashion and lifestyle market?

Above all, this market provides enormous growth opportunities for us,since we offer the perfect products for the current spirit of the times and lifestyle in this country: The famous footbed of our premium sandals being made in Germany is synonymous with outstanding comfort when walking and standing. In India it is not only meeting a strong and still growing consumer demand for genuine quality but also a booming, brand-compatible retail environment. 

In recent times, rising fitness and fashion lifestyle trends have greatly influenced footwear styling and growth. Consumers have already been using sneakers and flat shoes for regular wear widely, due to the comfort factor concerned with these products. 

Tell us about the international presence of BIRKENSTOCK. What kind of distribution the brand is expected to have in Indian market?

Our iconic sandalsare now being sold in more than 100 countries on all continents. BIRKENSTOCK operates its own international sales offices in the United States and Canada as well as in Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Denmark, Spain, the United Kingdom and Dubai.As part of our international growth strategy, the long-standing family-owned enterpriseis now expanding its global footprint to India, since the high-quality products from Germany have not yet been sold in the local market,at all.

The start of this market entry has been marked by the opening of the first mono brand store at Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi Airport in Dehli and the launch of our online shop Soon, several mono-brand retail stores are planned to open in the most important urban centers throughout the country. By also expanding our sales activities over the medium term, including in the form of partner-operated retail concepts and shop-in-shop concepts for retail partners in the premium segment, we are underscoring our growth ambitions in India.

Tell us about the product assortment introduced in Indian market. Have you made any change in product range exclusive to this market? What would be new inclusions in the time to come.

BIRKENSTOCK is a global brand and its sandal collectionsdeveloped for a global consumer. The fashion conscious and health/wellbeing focused consumer that travels globally is already aware of the brand and looking forward to it. Therefore, we are responding to this consumer need by launching our brand with the global collection in India. Our global key styles are: Arizona, Madrid, Gizeh, Mayari and Boston.

 Tell us about your starting and exiting price point and Target Group (TG). 

BIRKENSTOCK doesn’t target, it is a democratic product moreover focusing on quality, comfort and creating a good product.Thecollection offers products forwomen, men and children.For the kids category, the retail price for sandals startat INR1990 to INR3790/-The men and women collection retail fromINR2,990 to INR16,990/-

Indian market already has the presence of niche premium international footwear brands. What would your strategy to combat the competition?

We do not feel that competition is a barrier for us as we have a very unique product, and a brand which has already proven to have staying power for decades. 

But we have noticed the increasing influence of the online channel in the Indian footwear market. Digital technologies and smartphones create instant awareness for the consumers about the latest global trends and affect their shopping behaviour. As a consequence, we approached the market at first directly through our own online platform. This channel functions as a digital brand beacon and also allows us to gain further market insights through the direct consumer exchange. In this way, their large interest in high quality footwear made from exquisite natural resources could already been proofed.

Have you embed any sorts of technology to improve the experience?

Since 1774, BIRKENSTOCK has been thinking of ways that we – the inventor of the footbed – can make the lives of our customers better and richer – with a good shoe for all situations in life. At the heart of our products is our unique, anatomically shaped footbed – based on the natural footprint of a foot in the sand.Its orthopedic principles help to ensure that the feet endure many hours as stress-free as possible. At the end of the 19th century, Konrad Birkenstock had the visionary idea of manufacturing a footbed insole from a flexible cork and latex blend – an alternative to the rigid insoles that had mostly been made from metal up to that point. The footbed is not only a unique, revolutionary product concept that paved the way for a completely new market. It’s also a core idea and a reference point for everything that we do. Now and in the future.

Based on its heritage of producing special products for orthopaedic retailers, BIRKENSTOCK works continuously on creating innovative and new products around this concept of the footbed.Focusing to grow the range of closed shoes, children’s shoes, and occupational footwear, as well as accessories. We expect India to become one of the five most important markets for BIRKENSTOCK within the next few years,

At last, kindly highlight your growth plans?
We expect India to become one of the five most important markets for BIRKENSTOCK within the next few years,



Jens Hattab