Agarwal & Byravee Iyer, MINT
26 June 2012
love their shoes. The attachment defines leading ladies as varied
as Imelda Marcoswidow of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand
Marcos and star of her own soap operaand Carrie Bradshaw,
the narrative lead in Sex and the City, who famously has a thing
for her Manolo Blahniks. Countless devotees of Jimmy Choo and
Christian Louboutin are also testament to the passion.
As for men, time was when there were two choices for the middle-class
Indian male of all ages(usually) Bata or (occasionally)
the Chinese guy who made shoes to order. Over the years, other
brands also entered the market. The thing is, men, too, like their
shoes. It may not reach the scale of an all-consuming obsession,
but theres a strong enough market now in India that several
upscale overseas and local brands think it worth their while to
vie for custom.
Mens love affair with their shoes is gathering a
lot of steam, said Darshan Mehta, chief executive officer
of Reliance Brands Ltd, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd
that retails brands such as Steve Madden, Diesel, Zegna and Timberland
In November, Reliance Brands announced a joint venture with US-based
apparel, footwear and accessories brand Kenneth Cole. The pre-launch
market research for Kenneth Cole suggested that men were keen
on the brand.
Mehta wasnt too surprised. Mens footwear may account
for just 20% of the shoe stock at Steve Madden, but contributes
over one-third of the overall revenue in the shoe category.
The trend has picked up in the last couple of years, with the
palette extending beyond standard black or brown.
Two years ago, we could not even think of selling red and
blue loafers. Now they are the fastest selling, said Dipak
Agarwal, chief executive officer, DLF Brands Ltd, which retails
Salvatore Ferragamo and Boggi in India.
He attributes the changes to increased global exposure, Indians
travelling abroad, and the so-called metrosexual male trend, which
translates into men spending more time and effort on personal
Over the years, the range has evolved from men just wearing
the basic black and brown formals to sporting varied colours and
different occasion wear from formals to smart casuals, according
to Vikram Raizada, executive director, marketing, retail and business
development, Tara Jewels Ltd. Raizada buys shoes every time he
travels abroadfour times a year on average.
Shoes that may cost anywhere in excess of $100 have become an
impulse buy for men. If they see the right colour, pattern,
size, they just pick it up, said Mehta of Reliance Brands.
R. Burman, a Mumbai-based fashion photographer whose clients
include Vogue and GQ, expounds on his shoe-buying philosophy.
Buying shoes is like buying a piece of art. It is not necessarily
about a need. Its about appreciating the craftsmanship of
the product. Sometimes its about comfort, sometimes it could
be badly constructed but looks phenomenal, he said.
Even a slowing economy has not deterred companies from seeking
to enter the country.
Indian men are also more likely to look for technology in shoes
than women. They would tend to be convinced, for instance, by
features such as air-based cushioning and breathable shoes, said
Ramprasad Sridharan, chief executive officer, Clarks Future Footwear
Ltd, a joint venture between the 186-year-old British brand and
the Kishore Biyani-led Future Group. The venture opened the first
Clarks store in April 2011 and plans to raise the current 19 outlets
to 100 as soon as possible, regardless of the uncertainty in the
For Puma Sports India Pvt. Ltd, the Motorsport lifestyle offering
is the fastest growing category. Sales of the lines shoes
at Rs.4,500-7,000 a pair rose 10-15% last year, said Rajiv Mehta,
Pumas managing director for South Asia.
Since 2006, the number of international shoes and accessories
brands entering the market has increased fourfold, said
Tarang Gautam Saxena, a senior analyst at retail consultancy firm
Third Eyesight. She noted that there are close to 200 international
fashion brands in India, with more than one-quarter of these operating
predominantly in the footwear and accessories category. More want
to come in.
Close to a dozen foreign brands are interested in entering
the Indian footwear market, said Kanchan Lall, associate
vice-president, Tecnova India Pvt. Ltd, a consulting firm that
helped luxury French luxury footwear designer Christian Louboutin
launch his first store for women in New Dehi in February.
Last September, Louboutin launched his first mens store
in Paris. His shoes can easily cost more than $2,000 a pair. Louboutin
may consider retailing his men collection in India, said
Indian retailers have also been seeking to establish themselves
at various price points.
In April, Tata International Ltd announced a joint venture with
Wolverine World Wide Inc., whose portfolio of footwear brands
include Merrell and Caterpillar.
Meanwhile, apparel brands including Van Heusen, Louis Philippe
and Allen Solly are also focusing on footwear.
We found that there was an unmet need for style sought
after by the discerning consumer, said Jacob John, brand
head, Louis Philippe, which diversified into mens footwear
in April 2010 and now sells about 60,000 pairs of shoes a year
priced on average at Rs.4,500.
The market opportunity is seen as substantial. The countrys
per-capita shoe consumption is the lowest in the so-called BRIC
grouping of Brazil, Russia, India and China. In 2011, it was $7.2
in India compared with $25.7 in China, $81.5 in Russia and $107.3
in Brazil, according to Euromonitor, a global market research
With more men paying attention to their footwear, ancillary businesses
such as shoe laundries are slowly picking up.
Not surprisingly, most of their customers are male, according
to Shashank Bharadwaj, who started a shoe laundry business in
Bangalore eight months ago along with friend Chitra Ambareesh.
The business, which charges Rs.150 per pair, has broken even,
he said. Customers are happy to pay this much for shoes that cost
Rs.20,000 and more.
To explore further, watch the Livemint
video by Paromita Banerjee.