Businesses need to build the right mix of online and offline outlets – Mr. Harshwardhan Patwardhan, Founder of Chappers

Startup Talky presented Flashback ’22. This is a series of interviews in which we engage in in-depth conversations with founders and industry leaders to understand their growth in 2022 and what they predict for the future.

The footwear industry has grown rapidly in recent years due to a number of factors including increasing consumer demand, advances in technology and the growth of e-commerce.

People are becoming more fashion conscious and willing to spend more money on quality footwear. In addition, consumers are also becoming more health conscious and are looking for shoes that offer comfort and support.

Technological advances have also contributed to the growth of the footwear industry. New materials and manufacturing techniques have enabled the development of new, innovative footwear products.

Another trend driving growth in the footwear industry is the increasing customization and personalization of footwear. With the advent of 3D printing and other technologies, it is becoming easier for consumers to create their own unique shoe designs.

The Indian footwear market is valued at approximately US$13 billion in 2020 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of approximately 12% during the forecast period of 2021-2028. Footwear production in India reached about 2.8 billion pairs in 2020.

We invited you to this interview Harshwardhan Patwardhanfounder of Chapperand we talked about growth, challenges, insights and future opportunities in the footwear industry.

StartupTalky: Harshwardhan, what is Chappers about? With what motivation/vision did you start?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: Chappers is a shoe brand that offers customization options for everyone who loves to have their style with AR technology. We offer different styles from Kolhapuri Chappals to Belgian Loafers, Mojdis, Peshawari Sandals and more for both men and women.

I have loved Kolhapuri Chappals since college and when I went to the UK to study I took my favorite shoes with me. It was greatly appreciated by my friends and other people around me, but the only challenge in wearing Kolhapuris was the need for more color and design. This gave me the idea to build a world-class footwear brand that could offer unmatched design and color innovation and bring a contemporary image to Kolhapuris. This is the vision I started my journey with Chappers with.

StartupTalky: What other products/features have been added over the past year? What is/are the USP/s of your products?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: Chappers is a brand like no other in the Indian footwear market. We have created a unique blend of Indian and Western footwear to create stylish, high quality, durable and comfortable footwear. As well as expanding the range of bespoke Chappers shoes, Chappers, which started out as a men’s shoe brand, has recently introduced some SKUs for female customers to accommodate demand for formal and wedding shoes. Chappers uniqueness lies in the use of cutting-edge design and AR technology when placing orders. We encourage our customers to create designs using colors, materials and even personal icons or accessories for shoes.

This allows our customers to make their style statement with their shoes. This type of designer shoes is offered to them at far cheaper prices than other international brands offering such services.

StartupTalky: How has the shoe industry changed in recent years and how has your company adapted to these changes?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: The shoe industry has grown steadily over the years. In terms of innovation, however, there must still be growth. All major brands continue to produce thousands of pairs of almost identical-looking shoes. Chappers identified the unsatisfying demand for personalization and introduced a state-of-the-art software-driven approach that ensures limitless creativity and options for shoe personalization. Along with high quality and the right price, our shoes have quickly caught on in the market and are now available for delivery across India via our e-commerce portal. Customers can also order the shoes through our offline stores in Pune and we are working to expand our retail network to different parts of the country.

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: I attend most industry events and exhibitions. It is inspiring to see Indian entrepreneurs coming up with newer technologies and innovative manufacturing techniques. I also research many foreign brands that have shaped the shoe world such as Christian Louboutin, Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo and Giuseppe Zannotti.

StartupTalky: What key metrics do you track to review the company’s growth and performance?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: We track revenue growth month-by-month and the number of customer touchpoints added. We want all Indians to experience the power of individualization. We believe our model will forever change the footwear industry.

StartupTalky: What were the biggest challenges your company faced in the past year and how did you overcome them?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: In the early stages of Chappers development, we faced challenges related to sourcing raw materials. Nevertheless, we have overcome this extensive research and visits to leather manufacturers throughout Maharashtra, particularly in the Mumbai region. Lately we’ve had challenges with the pandemic. Nonetheless, we have created a fully fledged e-commerce site to ensure customers can now order Chappers shoes from their homes across India and have them delivered within 3-4 days of order placement.

StartupTalky: Repeat purchases are one of the most important parameters most e-commerce brands rely on. How do you retain your customers to stop churn?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: Chappers is a unique footwear brand in India. We offer our customers the freedom to design their shoes the way they want. We have developed patented AR software that allows you to choose materials and colors and add personalized elements such as accessories or signs. You can Visualize the appearance of the product using AR tools, and if they are satisfied with the design, they can finish it and place an order. This is the only brand currently offering budget shoe options in this country. This was a key factor for Chappers to retain their customers and get many repeat orders. The convenience and quality of the products are also very high, which is why customers prefer Chappers to other brands.

StartupTalky: What are the different strategies you use for marketing? Tell us about every growth hack you’ve pulled off.

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: We used different ones content marketing Approaches and increase online brand visibility through Media coverage and style guides for shoes. In addition, Chappers also participate in many exhibitions and fairs. We also engage in social media and search engine marketing to optimize our customer reach.

StartupTalky: What key tools and software do you use to run your business smoothly?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: Chappers is a technology driven brand and we have developed our proprietary AR software to allow customers to design and visualize the shoes even before they take shape. For sales, we use the latest e-commerce technologies and are constantly improving the tech stack to further streamline operations.

StartupTalky: What opportunities do you see for future growth in your industry in India and the world?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: As a country of almost 1.4 billion people, a strong audience is interested in shopping for stylish, high-quality and personalized shoes. We’ve remastered the iconic Maharashtrian Kolhapuri shoes and made them suitable for consumers worldwide. Chappers has already received several orders from abroad. It’s my long-term vision make Chappers available in every mall across India and through e-commerce channels in all parts of the world.

StartupTalky: What lessons has your team learned over the past year and how will they inform your future plans and strategies?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: Covid has been a challenging period for all of us. We have to get through the bad times in life to see a brighter future. Test times are always short-lived, and there is always a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. Never give up! The past year has seen a huge increase in sales of high ticket value items, which came as a surprise to us.

StartupTalky: How do you plan to expand the customer, SKUS and team base in the future?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: We Track the most popular Chappers designs and update our database regularly with new SKUs based on these designs. Chappers recently introduced a range of shoes for women that we will be expanding over the coming year. In addition, there are plans to introduce children’s shoes and to include products based on various other ethnic shoes from different states of India, such as more Rajasthan.

for market coverage, We use a kiosk franchise model under which we offer franchises to people to set up kiosks in shopping malls. Four such outlets are already operational in Pune, and in the long term there will be a kiosk in every mall across India. We will expand our team of craftsmen and other professionals in sync with the growth of the brand.

StartupTalky: With so much hype surrounding d2c brands spending on ads, what will your growth strategy be organic or inorganic? How to plan to bypass SEO and content marketing?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: Digital marketing is the key to success for any D2C brand today. Chappers generate a lot of organic leads because customers who use our products recommend the brand to others. We currently use SEO, content marketing, social media marketing and even search engine marketing to reach audiences. In the future we will use marketing and other D2C-centric marketing channels for faster growth.

StartupTalky: So finally, Harshwardhan, any advice you’d like to share with another d2c founder?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: I personally believe that d2c is a misunderstood term. People only relate d2c to online businesses. That is not true. Direct-to-consumer companies can also operate offline sales channels. Online business is greatly overrated. It’s good for marketing and customer acquisition. However, businesses need to build the right mix of online and offline outlets to gain traction. Don’t limit yourself to a specific point of sale. Ultimately, revenue growth is imperative; Whether it comes online or offline doesn’t matter.

We thank Harshwardhan Patwardhan for investing his valuable time and sharing his insights with all of us.

You can read more Recap’22 interviews here.