Bata: 'Sneaking' Into Your Shoe Shelves

Bata CEO Gunjan Shah says the footwear company is bullish about its innovations in casual wear and sneakers

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"First to Bata, then to school," the company slogan of yesteryears is a memory etched in the hearts of many Indians. The footwear and accessory brand was founded in 1894 by Tomas Bata, in Czechoslovakia. The footwear giant forayed into the Indian market in 1932 and soon became a household name for its school shoes. In these 90 years, Bata has expanded its presence across functional, fashionable and casual styles.

Company handout
Gunjan Shah, CEO, Bata India Ltd

After a hiatus of two years, when the world is moving towards normalcy, the footwear maker is bullish about the innovation in "casualisation and sneakerization'.

"Even with the world gradually moving towards normalcy, people still seek home-like comfort everywhere. Casualisation and sneakerization have emerged as dominant trends as a result of the pandemic. This inadvertently means that the lines between strictly formal footwear and casual footwear are gradually blurring and this is where sneakers fit in perfectly," said Gunjan Shah, chief executive officer of Bata India Ltd.

"Though the formal category is expected to witness a turnaround, the casual category will still continue to dominate the trends in 2022."

The brand has introduced the "Sneaker Studio' concept in stores, in alignment with the growing demand for casuals and sneakers. It presents 250-plus sneaker styles from nine international sneaker brands, all in one place. The Good Shoe Range was launched to cater to the needs of the environment, Gen-Z and millennials.

Over the past few years, the Gen-Z and millennials have become important influence groups for brands. "We focus on high-fashion with comfort, which is the exact combination that the modern consumers look for. With about 20 brands in Bata's portfolio, we offer everything from funky sneakers to comfortable flats to stylish stilettos. Our wide assortment of sneakers from Power, North Star and Weinbrenner, our fashionable range Marie Claire and Bata Red Label, our casual styles Bata Comfit, Hush Puppies and Naturalizer and our comfort range from Bata, Scholl Floats, make Bata the one stop destination for varying needs and preferences."

The company aims to reach its consumers through a robust omnichannel presence. Bata has witnessed a three times growth through its digitally enabled mediums, contributing to 15 per cent of its total sales. It will continue to strengthen e-commerce facilities and scale up home delivery services, while also strategically expanding its retail network through the franchise route.

"This would be done in combination with the MBOs (multi brand outlets) to continue making Bata more accessible across the tier III-V markets. Despite the pandemic, we have continued to strengthen our retail network through franchise routes. We will continue with this strategy in the year 2022 as well. Our target is to grow from 270 franchise stores to over 500 franchise stores in India in the next three to four years."

The rising consumer aspirations in smaller town markets has been outperforming other markets. Owing to the pandemic and travel restrictions, people are on the lookout for trustworthy brands in their own vicinity. "This is where a brand like Bata stands to gain. While our focus remains the tier I and II markets, we are also observing a surge in demand for branded products in the tier III-V markets."

The company has recently launched another channel called "Endless Aisle'. It allows customers to scan in-store products through QR code, select and order their favorite styles and have it home-delivered later.

With offices slowly opening up in phases, the brand is expecting a boost in its relaxed workwear range. "The impact of the third wave has fortunately not been that harsh and Bata remains cautiously optimistic," said Shah.

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