Harshwardhan Patwardhan, CEO, Chappers India, on being at the front of reviving the dying Indian art of ‘Kolhapuri’ and defining comfort with his innovative vision.
At Chappers we always strive to make our products comfortable. People who cannot even dream of wearing an unimaginably uncomfortable pair of Kolhapuris have loved our products. We use soft linings, foam insoles and soft leather to get this level of comfort. Secondly, we always innovate in design. Our idea is to revive the dying Indian art and present it in a new trendy way to our consumers.
Oh my god, it was horrible. Honestly, I took my Kolhapuri and started pasting cushion cubes to make it comfortable. And then, I painted it with all kind of colors and realized that none of them works on leather! I’ve kept it all safe till date and have plans to keep it in the Chappers Museum someday.
Each pair of Chappers is entirely handcrafted and hand-stitched. It takes about 6-7 days to finish one pair of footwear. Categorised for men and women both, our most popular pieces are called “Classics”. We have recently launched our new collection called “Urban Indian Sandals” in which the designs are a lot more casual and can be very easily be worn with shorts or jeans. The idea is to break the monotony regarding Kolhapuri chappals and make them part of everyday use. Also, we are launching a new range for kids this Diwali.
There is a term called ‘brand association’ and that is equally proportional to the target customer. So when people see their icon/favourite star wearing or using a particular brand, they feel associated and start using it. Today, when people see Sachin Tendulkar or Mahendra Singh Dhoni wearing Chappers, they know they do not need to worry about quality, durability etc. So, I feel it is a deliberate effort to establish a brand in the market, where understand the psychology of a customer is inevitable.
STORY OF DIVERSIFICATION
While interacting with our customers for Chappers, I realised that many of the elite men and women are in need of good custom shoes and that gave me the idea of startling ‘Cobbler’, a separate brand to cater custom-made shoes. I made a few pairs of shoes for some of our clients and they loved it. At present, we make only 100 made-to-measure shoes in imported leathers for our clients in a month. In the context of Chappers, at present, we have 2 stores in Pune now. Apart from that, we have 27 retailer tie-ups all over India in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Jaisalmer and Ahmednagar. A store becomes a brand when they have lots of products and huge variety. We aim to give our customers what they haven’t seen yet. We have now launched clutches, wallets and belts too. You can customise and get a combo of Belt, wallet and footwear in the same design and color. This is something that very few brands are doing in India.
SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS
To be frank I have built the entire business with the help of social media and word of mouth. But, it is not just that, your idea also needs to be unique. Fortunately, my product was unique and attractive, so the game became little easier. Moreover, it is beneficial for start-ups who don’t have enough funds for marketing and branding. Instead of investing lakhs of rupees in hoardings and advertisements, we prefer smart and well-targeted social media ads.
NOTE TO ARTISTS
With my experience, I have seen that our country has a great heritage that really needs to look at and carry forward to let the future generations also know about it. As an Indian citizen, it’s our duty to tell the world how great our country is. And the initiative by our Prime Minister under the umbrella of ‘Made in India’ is the best tool for it. I think future designers should concentrate more on taking Indian heritage global because the world is slowly turning its eyes towards India and we need to be ready to shine.