Call it a simple case of feet firmly planted on the ground (with footwear as a cushion). When Kolkata-based footwear company Khadim nursed national ambitions, it simply tuned into what its customer set was asking for.
Take the pandemic era of the recent past as a case in point. When the Covid-19 induced lockdown kept people at home, the footwear industry too bore the severe brunt of people staying indoors. As footfalls into retail outlets dropped drastically, the footwear major borrowed retail lessons from the neighbourhood grocer or vegetable vendor. It simply took the footwear store closer to home. The company launched not one, but three separate initiatives to overcome the resistance of customers to visit stores. First was On The Go — a store on wheels. Another initiative called Hot Spot was activated to disseminate shoe
sanitizers and masks. In the third exercise to push sales, the company rolled out Khadims Near Me by setting up shopping tents in residential areas. The company claims these initiatives received a good response.
The footprints of time
Though much of Khadim’s growth is associated post the 1980s, the story actually started through an acquisition in the 1960s.
Way back in 1965, Satya Prasad Roy Burman acquired a small footwear store called KM Khadim and Company in Chitpur, Kolkata.
Cut to the present. Khadim is now the second largest retailer of footwear in the country. It holds a lion’s share in markets as diverse as the east of India (its homeground) and in south India, where it entered much later (in the 1990s), it’s already among the top three players. The company has now set its eyes on the two major markets, west and north.
The company attributes its success in its ability to cater to both parts of the country –India and Bharat.
At one end, it offers premium yet affordable products in the metros with its retail sub-brands like British Walker (a challenger to Bata’s Hush Puppies) or other sub-brands like Lazard, Cleo or Pro. On the other side, it also caters largely to the demand of Bharat by capitalising its distribution network and products under sub-brands like Wash N Wear, Kalypso, Fitnxt which offer a mix of fashion, durability and pocket friendly footwear.
In the Indian market for footwear, a large part of the demand, almost 85 percent of the market for footwear comes from the price category below Rs 1000. Namrata A Chotrani, CEO Khadim estimates that over 50 per cent of the footwear sold by the organised sector is below the MRP of Rs 500 and a further 35 per cent of footwear sales happen in the band of Rs 500 to 1,000. However, in terms of overall volumes sold, it’s estimated that almost 80 per cent of the sales volumes occur in the value below Rs 500. “The difference in this value and volume is what I would possibly call India and Bharat,” Chotrani told ETBrandEquity. Watch the panel discussion featuring her at Brand Bharat Summit for more details.
Keeping in line with the market demands, Khadim has divided its business into two channels, retail and distribution. On the retail side, nearly 80 percent of its SKUs (stock keeping units) are below the MRP of Rs 1000. Nearly 55-60 percent of its sales comes from tier-two and tier-three cities.
Matching steps with the consumer
Chotrani adds that even in non-metros customers are very well aware of fashion trends that are happening in metros and tier-one cities. “We have to up our game even in these markets. If you’re not able to cater to that kind of fashion, we’re going to be out of the game,” she warns.
The other part of the game is in the distribution business which is a bulk of its business. The product range extends from the basic Hawai chappals and PVC sandals to economically priced sports shoes. “You will see really fancy Hawai chappals and really nice sports shoes that will give a real run for the money to large retail brands in the country,” says Chotrani.
The company has enhanced investments in product development for its distribution brands. It even has a seasonal calendar, for its economy range. “You can’t have a chalta hai attitude. If we do not move in step faster than normal, we will lag behind as the Bharat consumer is becoming India very, very soon. We are seeing the change happen too fast. This conversion is happening faster than we would have anticipated,” says Chotrani.
Over the last few years, Khadim has also hired a slew of brand ambassadors from actors Kangana Ranaut and Farhan Akhtar to cricketer Dinesh Karthik. The idea behind the association was to revamp its brand image as a more youthful brand and be seen as a contemporary brand, particularly by the younger demographic of the market. Clearly, Khadim’s wanted to establish itself as a “progressive” brand. In true Bharat fashion we can say, Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja.