Home / Opinion / Columns /  The sneaker fad has found a foothold in the country

Last fortnight, while announcing its earnings for the quarter ending 31 December 2021, Bata India Ltd’s managing director and chief executive officer (CEO) Gunjan Shah said the quarter saw the company enhance its portfolio in the casual footwear category and renew its sneaker category. “With consumers preferring sneakers, we strengthened our sneaker proposition by rolling out our new ‘Sneaker Studios’ to display up to 300 styles, nine brands in stores and on bata.in," he said, adding that “sneakers" led the growth recovery in the quarter.

Speaking to Mint in January, Bata’s vice-president, marketing and customer services, Anand Narang, too, had succinctly summed up the growing craze for sneakers in the country led by millennials and GenZ. ‘Sneakerization’ is a global trend and the market shift is driven by companies becoming more relaxed about what people wear to work, he said, referring to the casual outfits coming in. Besides, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the trend as consumers sought products they could use on multiple occasions.

“Sneaker culture is almost a celebration of one’s own expression and the fresh take that Indian consumer has makes it even more exciting," said Saurabh Sharma, head of marketing at ASICS India, part of the premium Japanese sports performance brand. A pair of good sneakers is considered an investment today, he said, adding that the creativity that young consumers bring to the sneaker world is a sign of a stronger rise in this culture in times to come.

Not surprisingly, the company, known for sports shoes and performance wear, has expanded its own sneaker range. It offers sneakers that suit every personality and mood through top-notch designs and vibrant colours, Sharma said.

For ASICS, sneakers have been a focus area for some years and it has shown growth year-on-year, with more and more people becoming aware about the category and culture, pointed out Sharma. “Given the versatility of sneakers, we are targeting stronger business contributions in 2022 and beyond," he said.

To be sure, though India has been home to specialized sneaker stores such as Veg Non Veg and Superkicks for a while, Narang referred to reports indicating sneakers’ contribution to the total footwear market at about 40% three years ago is nearing 50% today and expected to touch 60-65% in three-four years.

Interestingly, when Vedant Lamba, founder of The Mainstreet Marketplace, a reselling platform for sneakers, talks about the growing craze for sneakers in India, he makes the trend sound almost sublime. “Sneakers is not just casual dressing. It’s something that’s a lot more personal, intuitive. There’s more storytelling involved," he said. He probably views the sneaker culture having more depth as his startup deals in the coveted limited-edition sneakers from global brands such as Adidas, Nike, and Reebok, which he claims are in great demand in India.

Lamba’s startup deals in second-hand shoes but that doesn’t necessarily mean the shoes are used, he explained. Youngsters buy expensive sneakers when they are launched and know their price will escalate. That’s when they reach out to Lamba’s platform. “So there are all kinds of people in the ecosystem—the companies, the buyers, and the sellers. We are a platform that brings the buyers and sellers together. While it may be difficult to assess the size of the sneaker resale market, going by the number of individuals selling their pairs on Instagram, it is bound to be significant," he said. Sneakers are all about brand, fashion, and being cool, Lamba said, and it’s no surprise that people spend more than 20,000- 30,000 on exclusive pairs of their choice.

Mainstreet Marketplace, which has two offline resale stores and a website, may have raised a small round of funding, but its first store that opened four years ago in Lamba’s home town Pune flopped. He restarted the business in Mumbai but that, too, was upended by the March 2020 lockdown forcing him to return to Pune. “But in the first two months of that lockdown, I made more money than my full two years in Mumbai put together," he said, adding, “we scaled rapidly online. Although we had a website, we were pretty much selling 100% of our products on Instagram. Now the website has also taken off."

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pre-ssing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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