For all those who still perceive Bata as a fuddy-duddy school shoe brand could be in for a surprise if they visit one of the new age Bata stores that are sprawling 6,000 sq.ft. with over 20,000 styles of footwear. The stores not just offer facilities such as shoe laundry and certified footcare specialists who offer medical pedicures, but also 3-D scanners that can scan one's feet and customise a sole as per one's fit.
The company has set up five such stores across Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, but the larger agenda is to reinvent the footwear brand that has been around in this country for over 80 years. "We were the largest seller of footwear in the country, but we were losing out," says Sandeep Kataria, CEO of the Rs 3,000-odd crore Bata India. Kataria, who joined the company in 2017, says that while the reinvention process had already begun when he joined, his agenda was to fast forward it.
The company has invested Rs 100 crore to upgrade its factories in Kolkata, Patna, Bangalore and Hosur. The company has been either adding or renovating (it's existing stores) close to 150 stores every year since 2017. Bata is available in 650 cities in the country and it has been focussing on the franchisee and multi-brand store route to deepen its penetration, especially in tier-II and tier-III markets.
The footwear major has also been investing heavily on making its products look stylish and appealing. "We are making sure we are always in trend," points out Kataria. The company makes sure that it rolls out a new style every Friday. It has put in place a 40-member strong design team headed by its design head, Matteo Lambert.
The biggest USP of Bata, claims Kataria, is ability to offer stylish designs at a hugely competitive price. "Having been around for 85 years, we know the right price and right place to source."
Apart from its flagship brand, Bata also has the licence to manufacture and market brands such as Scholl, Hush Puppies and Naturaliser in India. The second part of its strategy is to have individual concept stores not just for the likes of Naturaliser and Hush Puppies, but also its own brands such as Bubblegummer (kids brand) and Power (sports brand). "Concept stores allow us to display the entire collection. Though the Bata stores have the entire range, it is difficult to put out the entire range of each brand," explains Kataria.
Bata's reinvention strategy is yielding results even in a difficult economic scenario. The company's revenues grew by 13 per cent last year. Kataria says it has grown 9 per cent in the first half of 2020.