Raise your hands if you’ve grown up believing Bata to be an Indian brand patronised by your Nana and school kids alike. Yes, I did too! The Czech brand made a very early foray into the Indian market making us believe that it’s a part of the narrative of the country. As the narrative goes, Czech shoemaker & Bata founder, Tomáš Bata visited India in the late 1920s to source rubber and leather for his footwear factories. After seeing a number of barefoot Indians, he realised the potential the country has to offer and decided to create affordable footwear for the masses. Achieving precisely that, Bata has become a household name when it comes to durable and comfortable shoes. Today, India is Bata’s second largest market, after Italy, and a household name.
Moving forward from this legacy, the brand is on the path to pleasing their clientele with au-currant models of design and sustainability. When I visited Milan for the second edition of Bata Fashion Weekend, I realised that the brand’s made drastic and positive developments in the world of fashion footwear. Revolving around the concept “The Sound of Style”, the two-day event at Milan’s prestigious Palazzo Mezzanotte saw a bevvy of activity in the form of fashion shows, new launches, shoe exhibitions, music performances and design showcases.
The launch of the urban youth collection of shoes saw a musical pop-up with piano players serenading bystanders. Meanwhile, the fashion presentations saw musical performances by Homeboyz crew, Khaligraph Jones, Fena, Teacher Wanjiku, Brian Mbunde and others. In sync with the theme of "Me & Comfortable With It", the runway showed inclusivity as Nidhim Kochhar, a professional bodybuilder with an amputated foot, walked the ramp. Activities such as canvas shoe painting, the sale of the iconic Ngomas style shoes and others drew in the crowds.
In midst of all this activity, I had the chance to meet Bata's CMO, Thomas Archer Bata (great-grandson of the founder, Tomáš Bata) who shared with me interesting insights including the brand’s growing affinity towards millennials, e-commerce and taking their style-meets-comfort philosophy to a new level. Though raised in Prague, Thomas Archer Bata is equally familiar with the heritage value that the brand holds over India. Born in a family where his forefathers all shared the same name, he distinguishes himself with his passion for activities like playing the guitar, skiing and cooking.
A few excerpts from our conversation:
POPxo Founder & CEO, Priyanka Gill with Bata CMO, Thomas Archer Bata in Milan
Bata has always stood for great value and quality in India. Durability and comfort have always been the pillars that have created a very strong and historical consumer base in India. Our objective now is to evolve by offering to a much more trendy, up-to-date market. The focus is on bringing in more European styles and creating a more appealing store portfolio.
The younger generation in India has grown up on the internet. Hence it’s important to adapt on how to sell the products and also, how to interact with our consumers. At the moment it’s quite small, but I’d say our number one priority, for expansion at the moment is e-commerce. And when I say e-commerce, I’m talking about the full ecosystem. So that’s where we're investing heavily and you’re going to see a lot more activity on it. We will be retailing out of Bata.in. We also work with Jabong, Flipkart and other retailers. For us, it's really about ease of access. Wherever we find a customer. As long as the third party retailers aren’t complicated and respect our pricing policies and things like this. So, wherever we can build a good relationship and it makes sense and doesn’t do damage to the brand, we’ll consider distributing through those channels.
Our target with Bata is not teenagers, it’s a little bit older than that. The kids who grew up wearing Bata, when they get to a life stage (which is starting a family), they'll look to us. This is the time that they’re not willing to compromise on comfort anymore, yet they still want to look good. The younger customers are more open to experimenting. Even if they like you they want to try new things and we have to respect that. We’re going to use different brands to cater to these customers.
India has a huge celebrity culture, hence we’ve started working with Kriti Sanon and the vice-captain of the national women’s cricket team, Smriti Mandhana to create a buzz for the brand. We’re going to start doing a lot more partnerships like this because it generates amazing reach and people appreciate it. It’s the new way to talk to the new generation."
With design facilities in Italy, Canada and all over the world, we have a great set of designers on board ensuring that the shopper can trust the product we’re offering them. Sustainability is very, very important for us. The idea of looking after our employees and the environment is really ingrained in our business. It’s something of a challenge, but I think if you buy Bata shoes, you can feel good about what you’re buying and that is what counts.
We are reliable. When it comes to service, I think it’s more than someone bowing over and putting a shoe on your foot. It’s more about ease of shopping, knowing that you’re not going to have a problem, and if for whatever reason something does go wrong, it will be solved in like two seconds.
Intrigued by what our founder & CEO, Priyanka Gill wore for the Bata Fashion Weekend in Milan click here.
Image Source: Instagram
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