Bata India CEO, Sandeep Kataria, expects the footwear company to be back on growth mode towards end of Q1FY22. "We are moving up every week, slowly but steadily, lot of our categories are back at pre-covid numbers, but there are other categories like school shoes which are impacted. Overall, we are at 70-80 per cent of last year," said Kataria in an interview with Businesstoday.In.
As Kataria gets ready to take on the role of the global CEO of the footwear major, he says that the biggest lesson that the past few months of the pandemic has taught him is agility and speed. The company in the last few months has launched new go-to-market concepts such as store-on-wheels, Whatsapp ordering for its Bata Club members and a collection of washable footwear. He says the pandemic has shown muscles of the organisation which he was not aware off.
For instance, the idea of store-on-wheels came from one of the managers who got a request from a friend asking him to get footwear delivered to his elderly parents. "This sparked off the idea. We realised that there could many such customers, both elderly and children, who were advised not to go out. We started off with a test in Gurgaon, but within three weeks we were active in 40 cities and we were putting up 170 stores every week."
Unlike earlier, when the company's townhall meetings were mostly restricted to its employees working at the corporate office in Gurgaon, the pandemic and the switch to virtual meetings has opened the townhall meetings to its employees across the country. "Earlier, we could have at the best only 100-150 people, now we have all our 1,100 managers together at the same time. This has helped not just better ideation, our ability to act on these ideas is also much faster now," says Kataria.
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Though the overall quantum of innovations hasn't been too different from what it was pre-Covid, Kataria says that the innovation cycle has become shorter, with speed and agility much higher. "Our marketing team's ear to the ground is much more now." Apart from launching washable shoes and extending the anti-bacterial shoe collection from kids to adults, Bata India has also launched an app which enables consumers to check their shoe size by using their smart phone camera.
Like most other businesses, the footwear major has also seen better traction in tier 2-3 markets. "In towns with population of 50,000-300,000 where we have franchise stores, the interest there is much higher. Our franchise partners there are showing interest in opening second and third store."