Mumbai: Shoe maker Bata India Ltd started India operations in 1931, went public in 1973 and today, has at least 1,200 stores across the country. Managing director Marcelo Villagran, who has been heading the India operations of the Lausanne, Switzerland- headquartered company since 2005, spoke in an interview about the firm’s plans in the country. Edited excerpts:
Are you planning any changes to the way you have been doing business?
We have more than 1,200 stores in India. We have five factories and more than 20,000 independent shoe dealers. Globally, we have more than 6,000 stores.
Expansion mode: Managing director Marcelo Villagran says the company will start 24-hour home delivery services in India by April.
Starting next year, we are ready to roll out a franchise model with Bata stores, where we provide the layout design and furniture to the franchisees, according to our new standard designs globally and in India. We are going to go to the mini metros with our franchise model because there are a lot of shopping centres where we cannot be present. And we do have a lot of entrepreneurs who want to be part of the Bata chain. We have not done much with the franchise model in India, though we already have (one) operating in Europe, which has worked out quite well for us.
Do you plan to expand the number of stores in India?
In the last three years, Bata India has opened 200 stores and renovated around 100. We plan to open 60 Bata stores in India each year along with 10 Hush Puppies stores, our premium line. (With) Hush Puppies, we will concentrate on major and mini-metros. Bata India today sells over 45 million pairs of footwear every year and serves over 120,000 customers every day. We have brands such as Marie Claire, which is stylish and trendy; Hush Puppies, which is smart and casual and more in our premium range; Bata shoes, more for families and extremely affordable; Bubblegummers for kids; Comfit for day-long comfort, etc. We already have have our entire product lines present in India and we would rather consolidate what we have than getting into other areas. The shoe market in India is dominated by men’s wear and there is a lot of local competition that we need to take care of. Women’s wear is growing, though, with their purchasing power having grown.
How are you building the brand? Why is Bata not doing much on the mass–advertising front?
I think we are in some of the best locations across cities. So if you have 200 signs saying Bata, that’s brand building for you. But if you are talking about mass advertising campaigns, that’s not where our priority lies. Our priority is to expand the company... You have to prioritize according to resources. We are investing in our collections, in designs and in entering markets and store expansion. We are also doing a lot on the internet. We have a website with catalogues and detailed information that we update regularly.
In addition, we are beginning something called the 24-hour home delivery service in India by April 2010. If a customer sees a shoe model online or goes to a Bata store and can’t find the right size, we deliver the shoes to the customer within 24 hours. We have already begun this service in Europe, though other markets (India included) will get this service soon.
How are your business units doing here?
As a company, we have structured ourselves such that various groups oversee various regions in a more independent way. Operations across continents such as Latin America and Asia-Pacific are managed by regional meaningful business units (MBUs), addressing needs of different types of consumers... Each MBU is entrepreneurial in nature.
We treat India as a separate MBU in itself with its one billion consumers. Last quarter, we grew by more than 10% and we will expect to clock more by the end of this year. Not too many countries are growing globally.