The footwear industry in India is estimated to generate a revenue of USD 7923 million in 2020. New brands have emerged in recent years but one brand that has always put its best foot forward is Bata, the shoemaker for Indians. Interestingly, in the late 1920s Tomas Bata the 9th generation Chez shoemaker was on trip to British India to shop for rubber and leather for his footwear factories. Having seen a lot of barefoot Indians, he saw this huge opportunity and returned to India to set up Bata Shoe Company Pvt Ltd in 1931. A small manufacturing unit was set up in 1932 in Konnagar (near Kolkata) West Bengal. This unit initially only produced canvas and rubber shoes. Later in 1937, as they shifted to a larger factory premises at Batanagar near Kolkata, tanning was introduced at the new factory and the company started producing leather footwear. Batanagar would one day become the first manufacturing facility in the Indian shoe industry to receive the ISO: 9001 certification. This is a sole-story of the near 90 year Bata – ‘No. 1 footwear brand in India’.
The Parent Company
Bata India belongs to the MNC Bata Shoe Organisation (BSO) a family business headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland which has its presence in over 70 countries with production facilities in 26. The BSO consists of 96 independently run companies in 90 countries worldwide. It has three business units –Bata Europe based in Italy, Bata Emerging Market (Asia, Pacific, Africa, Latin America) based in Singapore, and Bata Protective (B2B operations) based in Netherlands. Bata India Limited is the largest company for the BSO. It has close to 1500 stores across India and is also the second highest revenue earner for the parent company.
Flourishing from the 40s
Until the 1930s, shoes for the British troops were mostly imported from Japan. When Bata started manufacturing in Eastern India, the demand was overwhelming. In 1939, Batanagar employed 4000 persons; and Bata opened 86 retail outlets selling 3500 pairs of shoes per week. From 1940, the business had started to flourish.
In 1942, it was time to reinvent hand-made footwear. A leather footwear factory was established at ‘Bataganj’ in Patna, Bihar with the first Indian-made shoe machine. In 1952, another factory was constructed in Faridabad, which served as a tannery and hide purchasing centre.
Bata Shoe Company Pvt Ltd went public in 1973 when it changed its name to Bata India Limited.
In the late eighties, Bata signed up with Adidas, Germany to manufacture and market sports footwear and sportswear in India. It launched `Star’ clothing designed by Murjani
International, New York, U.S.A. and Tigre Brand shoes, both in 1988. They also added a moulding plant in the Bangalore factory in 1990, for production of `State-of-the-art’ injection moulded synthetic shoes. Again the nineties onward saw Bata adding to its basket of brands, international names like Nike, Hush Puppies, Marie Claire. On one side, new management continued to expand and modernize its existing plants and on the other upgrade its retail stores. An export-oriented unit was also set up at Hosur in Tamil Nadu.
Bata continued to move in the right direction a step at a time.
Running a Marathon
- Bata India entered into a 10 year contract from January 1, 2001, with Bata Ltd, Toronto, Canada to provide technical know-how.
- Bagged the Retailer of the year-category footwear, 2006, at Reid and Taylor Award for Retail Excellence presented during the Indian Retail Summit 2006.
- Most Admired Brand of the year 2006-07 in footwear category.
- Received Retail Award at the 4th Images Retail Awards (IRA) 2007.
- Awarded ‘Top 10 super brands in India’, by Super Brands Award, April 12 2007.
- On February 21, 2008, received AMITY Corporate Excellence Award 2008 for performance and retail growth.
- Won the ‘Consumer Awards 2010’ as ‘India’s Most Preferred Retailer’ by CNBC Awaaz
- Bata India bagged the award for ‘Most Admired Large Format Multi Brand Footwear Retailer of the Year’ 2013 by the Images Shoes & Accessories Forum.
- Brand Equity conferred the title ‘Top Most Trusted Brands’ in November 2013.
- Certificate of Excellence and Gold Medal received at the ‘International Global Meet’ organized by the Institute of Economics Studies in January 2014
- 2014 received Udyog Rattan Award
- Most Admired Footwear Brand of the year 2017, at the 18th Annual Fashion Awards
The Turning Point
Stepping into year 2000, Bata India saw the country taking a leap of faith with the internet. India had opened its doors to foreign players and competition was rising. Bata realized the need to reinvent itself. Its marketing strategy needed to change the age-old perception of the brand. From ever-lasting shoes to style conscious and trend-savvy products, Bata needed a new image to survive. In 2003 Bata India repositioned the brand.
Moreover, when the company changed the financial year from January-December and extended it to 31 March 2015, it faced several problems. The new IT systems and new supply chain could not supply adequate stocks of footwear and accessories to its retail stores adversely affecting the business. During the period also customers were shifting online which meant Bata needed to e-think. Today, Bata sells its products on its website as well as other e-commerce sites like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Myntra, and more.
Surviving with strong values
Bata India has walked a path of success by following the values of the parent company, Bata Shoe Organization. The values are:
Serve with passion
Count on me
Exceed customer expectations
Bata India – Waiting to hit a Century
In a country like India where branded footwear currently accounts for around 45% and unbranded dominates with 55% market share, Bata has retained its position as ‘No. 1 footwear brand in India’. It will soon be celebrating its 90th year in India. The company in spite of different business cycles, and ups and downs, continues to engage in the business of manufacturing and trading of footwear and accessories through their 30000 retailers and 1500 stores. Step into Bata shoes today and be part of India’s footwear history and get ready to celebrate 100 years soon.