By Vishal S S (firstname.lastname@example.org)
With a modest beginning, Walkaroo International forayed into the Indian footwear market with its economy range of products in 2013. Soon after its vibrant range was put up on display across its stores, the footwear turned out to be a rage among perceptive customers in the country.
The company has come a long way over the past eight years with its wide variety of products, comprising footwear for every occasion – slippers, flip-flops, sports shoes, sneakers, sandals, lifestyle footwear for men, women and children. It’s worthy to mention here that Walkaroo has raked in a revenue of over Rs 1,200 crore, last year, after roping in Bollywood icon Aamir Khan and National Award winner Keerthi Suresh as its brand ambassadors.
The Covid-19 pandemic, however, threw a spanner in the works of its marketing wheel, as the stores could not be opened and customers could not be reached out to, despite witnessing considerable demand. “The unpredictable nature of the pandemic had evoked the necessity of innovative strategies to flourish in the market,” points out Rajesh Mathew Kurian, Director, Walkaroo International Pvt. Ltd., as he opens up in a candid interview.
“At first, it was a national lockdown and the second wave of the pandemic triggered a partial lockdown. As the lockdown norms varied across India, all the markets were not shut down. Hence, our sales didn’t drop to zero, but could be built on the extent of the lockdown,” he reveals, adding, “We continued production, as our factories are located across states.” The Coimbatore-based Walkaroo operates 12 production facilities: three each in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana, cobbling together about 4.50 lakh pairs per day. The company has been operating at 80 percent of its capacity in three shifts and employs over 6,000 people.
The brand is selling through a vast network of 700 dealers and 1.5 lakh retailers across the country, though it started small from the southern parts of India. Subsequently, Walkaroo expanded its business to other parts of the country and rest of the world. During the lockdown and post lockdown, people opted for lower-valued products, which came with simple designs. Mr. Kurian says: “Being conscious of the pandemic trend, we launched more products at lower prices based on the demand. The prevailing trend in the Indian supermarkets today is for wide varieties of simple products. The versatility of a product increases its demand in the market and the people’s interest to buy it.”
Probe him about the ban on imports from China, and he remarks, “The ban on imports from China or Chinese products is based on several reasons, one among which is the alleged low quality of products. Apart from quality concerns and their undervaluation, Chinese imports have been harming India’s small and medium enterprises. So, the ban would help boost local manufacturing, enable indigenous companies to grow in their business and also provide employment. We, however, have experienced no fall in our business. The losses incurred were made up for, though not fully, with constant demand.”
E-commerce is a current trend that continues taking the business world by storm. Following its reasonable growth in FY21, Walkaroo is contemplating doubling its online sales during the current fiscal. Its products are available on popular E-commerce platforms, such as Amazon, Flipkart, since 2019. “E-commerce will irrefutably gain a good percentage share of business for all brands. Digital allows us to reach customers located all over the country and around the world. Customers can do online shopping at the convenience of their homes and also the cost of products is reduced by going digital.”
Even a product like footwear purchased online can be tried on and returned if not suitable. Still, there are customers who are more satisfied by purchasing at brick-and-mortar outlets by properly touching and feeling, and checking the products before buying. Hence, retail shops are very essential for every business; Mr. Kurian ends the conversation decisively.
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