Why Chappers is Betting Big on Customization

To bring the love for ethnic footwear back, Chappers was established in 2014, to spread the love for Kolhapuri chappals and to cater to the Indian consumer needs.
Why Chappers is Betting Big on Customization
Harshwardhan Patwardhan

The Indian footwear market is driven by an increase in fashion consciousness among the young generation and growing consumers' preference to match their daily outfits with their footwear. However, the high cost associated with raw materials and increased production of identical footwear products by local manufacturers hampers the market growth.

The presence of duplicate products in the industry hinders its growth. But today’s consumers are getting more and more aware of duplicate products and prefer genuine products for the safety and comfort of their feet. Furthermore, the awareness is leading to the increment in the demand for fancy and comfortable footwear which is expected to provide various opportunities for market growth.

India footwear market size was valued at $13.49 billion in 2021 and the total revenue is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.83 percent through 2022 to 2027, reaching nearly $27.84 billion,” as per research by Maximize Market Research.

In the case of traditional/ ethnic or handcrafted footwear, vegetable tanned leather is utilized.  There is a variety of ethnic footwear being produced in different parts of the nation. But today, the ethnic footwear industry in India is in a quite miserable state. Lack of standardization, product deficiencies, lack of innovative and improved designs, competition from organized and cheap footwear producing firms, lack of proper marketing channels, etc. are a few causes of the problems being faced by the Indian ethnic footwear industry. 

To bring the love for ethnic footwear back, Chappers was established in 2014, to spread the love for Kolhapuri chappals and to cater to the Indian consumer needs. Harshwardhan Patwardhan, Founder of Chappers, started the brand to make the famous Kolhapuri chappals globally renowned footwear. He was a big admirer of these chappals since his initial days in college. However, there were certain limitations to the Kolhapuri, such as stiff, slippery footwear available only in the traditional brown color. By changing these elements, he wondered if these chappals would appeal to people in the US, Europe, or Latin America and that's how he started his research, working with various materials, and eventually conceptualized Chappers. The brand has expanded into a wide range of products beyond the Kolhapuri chappals and aims to highlight Indian craftsmanship globally.

Chappers

Chappers has also adopted a unique technology-driven retail model that has eliminated the need for huge inventories and made customization of footwear possible. We create great designs and let the customers choose the design or materials they want. We also allow our customers to add accessories or put their initials on the shoes. Our focus has been to enable all this at the right price. At Chappers, we believe in building great, innovative products that people would wear as per their own color choices instead of being forced to wear standard brown Kolhapuris. Another great thing about our products is that we take 48 hours to make the custom footwear and deliver it to the customer. This kind of customer-centric approach has brought a lot of success so far,” Patwardhan shared.

The biggest USP of the company is its low inventory, a customization-based retail model that offers nearly unlimited design, color, material, and accessory options to the customers. Even an inventory of thousands of pairs is unlikely to provide the customization that cappers offer to the buyers. 

The buyers have complete control over every aspect of shoe design and can even integrate their initials into the shoe design. That’s something that any other leading player at present does not offer. We have embarked on the journey with variations of the iconic Kolhapuri chappals. And then, we progressed to making loafers, moccasins, mules, chappals, etc. Recently we also launched footwear for women,” Patwardhan shared.

Omnichannel Approach
Chappers is planning to integrate more tech in the near future to strengthen its omnichannel presence. 

We will primarily opt for the kiosk franchising route as it is less capital-intensive and would enable our bootstrapped venture to grow faster. Further, the kiosk in the mall model is less capital intensive for franchise owners, and their expenses remain on the lower side. With most of our orders for customized shoes, there is very little need to stock inventory compared to a typical footwear store. We will be integrating our online model wherein the customers can visit the brand website, customize the shoe design, and place orders from the comfort of their homes. In the wake of the pandemic, this kind of omnichannel retail presence is crucial to cater to a broader audience,” he said.

At present, the brand has 4 outlets in Pune. The stores are fully equipped with modern-day technology that makes the selection process easier for the consumer.

Customers walk into our store and check their shoe size by trying on samples. For those who want to wear the shoes immediately, there is an RTW (Ready to Wear) section wherein a selection of 25-30 of our bestselling products is available. Otherwise, if the customer is willing to wait for 2-3 days, we offer them customization. There are countless color, design, and material options to choose from in our collections,” Patwardhan asserted.

There is a touch screen that offers intelligent virtual customization. Our technology only helps the buyer choose materials and preview how the product would look on their feet. After that, they can choose to place an order or leave their number so that the customized design is shared with them via WhatsApp for future reference. This kind of technology-driven and inventory-independent approach will redefine the footwear industry in the years ahead. Our brand enjoys great word-of-mouth publicity, and we use our social media handles to discuss our offers and new launches,” he added.

Future Goals
Chappers being a profitable bootstrapped venture, it is important for the company to maintain its growth and bring innovations to the brand to achieve its future and expansion goals.

We will build an omnichannel business model with a brand website and a kiosk franchise model for on-ground retail. We have already opened a few retail stores, and our vision is to ensure that there is a Chappers kiosk in every shopping mall across India. With such a massive retail network, we will get thousands of custom orders every day, thereby giving severe competition to the legacy brands that are more accustomed to making thousands of pairs of the same design and color. We wish to bring about a change that will eventually make the other brands join in and make things more customer-centric than ever,” he said.

Customers can order products from anywhere in India through the brand website. We have delivered orders to 27 countries and served more than 27,000 customers, generating a revenue of Rs 2.5 crore. Chappers has a returning customer rate of 40 percent. However, we will look for funding later in the year as the time has come when our proven business model needs to rise to new heights, and we want to fast-track Chappers into the next big footwear industry revolution,” Patwardhan concluded.

Harshwardhan Patwardhan
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