The first pair of shoes Ankeeta Deb painted on it were white, faded, and had been passed on to him by his older sister. The seventh grader from Calcutta expected to be yelled at, but his family let it go.
Ankeeta took the shoes to an extra class after school, where they were noticed by her teacher.
âThe teacher saw my painted shoes and encouraged me to try putting my own designs on the shoes. She handed me 500 rupees and told me to buy shoes to paint on,â she said. .
This is exactly what she did and presented them at a school event. Ankeeta’s designer shoes turned heads and kept her going after school hours.
âI’ve always loved shoes and preferred comfortable shoes like sneakers over heels. I was different from the rest of the crowd,â she says.
The seeds of entrepreneurship were sown in Ankeeta, but she then chose to study engineering and earn an MBA.
âMy family is made up of painters and artists, and I did general painting alongside while studying and working. I wasn’t looking to paint specific shoes,â she says.
But after her MBA she met a marketing graduate Viresh Madan.
Ankeeta and Viresh found common ground and realized that they wanted to start a business in the big shoe industry in India.
India is the world’s second largest producer of footwear after China, but the market is largely unorganized. Near 75 percent of shoe production in India still comes from unorganized players, according to a Research and Markets report.
There was a great opportunity for Ankeeta to turn her passion into a profession by starting a business around her shoe painting concept.
In 2015, Viresh and Ankeeta invested around Rs 15 lakh of their personal savings to launch a footwear and fashion technology brand. Rivir shoes in Gurugram. Ankeeta was in charge of the design and Viresh was in charge of the operations. They started using manufacturers to make sneakers with Ankeeta’s designs.
Ankeeta Deb and Viresh Madan, founders, Rivir Shoes
The beginnings of Rivir
The duo quickly realized that their model was not working. They were stocking too many units when there was no guarantee of sale. They also paid labor costs when there was no work.
âStorage was consuming capital because the money was stuck in the form of shoes that didn’t sell. Plus, if the shoes aren’t used, they tend to wear out faster,â she says.
However, the demand was there, in theory. After China and the United States, India is the second largest consumer of footwear. The disposable income and purchasing power of its citizens are on the rise. Despite the brand’s growing awareness, consumers aren’t afraid to look beyond Vans and Converse for a pair of sneakers.
So how did Ankeeta get her designer shoes to potential consumers in a way that doesn’t burn capital?
In an attempt to fix this and also attempt to disrupt the inventory-plagued footwear industry, Ankeeta has taken a tailor-made approach. Rivir wouldn’t keep an inventory; the shoes would only be made after placing an order.
âCustomers can place an order online and can choose an existing design or opt for a custom design. Once the order is placed, we synchronize with our contract manufacturers to manufacture the product. Design and printing is in-house. , hence the turnaround time is less than 48 hours plus delivery, âexplains the 28-year-old.
Rivir currently has three workshops: two in Agra and one in Gurugram. The company has seven full-time employees.
He claims to sell between 20 and 30 pairs of shoes per day, on average, and monthly sales of Rs 9 lakh to Rs 10 lakh. He estimates that his sales will reach Rs 1.5 crore this year.
Rivir Shoes sells espadrilles (lightweight canvas shoes with braided fiber soles) and high and low canvas sneakers.
The espadrilles have a wide range of models, all made by Ankeeta, but they cannot be customized. They cost 999 rupees, and Ankeeta says she updates the designs frequently. âEspadrilles are our spring-summer range. They are easy to wear and come in sizes 3 to 11. Soon we are looking for sizes 12 and 13, âshe says.
A high-top sneaker design by Rivir
Rivir’s sneakers cost Rs 1500 while custom cost 1 999 rupees. âWe have 150 designs on the websites for the ready-made sneakers. If customers want their own designs on the shoes, we reach out to them and understand their needs,â she says.
Custom shoes are more expensive because they are a unique product and have a time cost. âAfter a long discussion with the customer to decide on a model and send them models, we start making the shoes,â she says.
Pricing has worked so far, but it hasn’t always been. Rivir’s ready-made shoes cost Rs 2,500 when the company was first launched. Ankeeta’s rationale for this price was that the shoes were unique and deserved to be sold at a higher price.
She found that Rs 2,500 was not a good place. This was the price that high-end brands were occupying, and Rivir couldn’t face them. The company then lowered its prices to around Rs 1,800, but it was still too expensive for some.
âIt was only when we started to make manufacturing deals that we were able to reduce the cost of production. We could afford to lower the prices even more. As more orders came in, we had found out that Rs 1,500 was the place for ready-made sneakers and Rs 999 for sneakers, âshe says.
Rivir also launched readymade sneakers for Rs 1700, of which Rs 200 goes to the children of the Nabhangan Foundation (children contribute to the designs that appear on this range of sneakers).
Rivir’s product margin is between 35% and 40%, says Ankeeta, adding, “If production costs drop even more, we can start making waterproof shoes.”
Customer demographics and engagement
25% to 30% of Rivir’s orders are for custom shoes. Ankeeta says 50% of customers are from Mumbai and Bengaluru, and she also gets good traction from Hyderabad and some cities in northeast India.
âPeople in these places don’t always buy shoes from big brands. They like to experiment with fashion,â she says.
The brand’s target customer is between 18 and 27, but Ankeeta says people between 18 and 21 may not have a debit or credit card. âCash on delivery doesn’t work very well because customers can change their mind and cancel their order after we’ve made and shipped the product,â she says, adding:
âCustomers over 25 often want to stay young and like to dress young. In addition, they can pay online and they generally have more purchasing power than younger customers.
Rivir faces seasonal ups and downs in demand. It receives the fewest orders during the rainy season. âThis year it has been difficult to forecast demand as different parts of the country have received erratic rainfall,â Ankeeta said.
Currently, Rivir sells on its website, on Amazon and through a few websites such as LBB.
A glimpse of the interior of a Rivir Shoes workshop
âUsually we don’t do discounts because we don’t have stock to empty. But on Diwali and other occasions, we make 10-15% sales to attract new customers, âshe says.
Rivir outsourced national delivery to Blue Dart and Delhivery. Its international logistics are handled by Aramex, but Ankeeta says she is trying to get DHL on board.
Rivir wants to engage audiences through digital marketing campaigns on the theme of fun, eccentricity and excitement. It also intends to continue to engage in influencer marketing to promote its products.
âInstagram gives us a lot of traction because it’s visual. Facebook’s traction has slowed down. We also do Google ads but it’s seasonal,â Ankeeta said.
Going forward, Ankeeta predicts that Rivir may not face direct competition from custom designer shoe brands because “they’re not that unique.” She says, “Some of these brands closed because they couldn’t guarantee their products were top notch.”
Rivir intends to increase and boost manufacturing to meet more orders. However, Ankeeta says all money invested in the business will go towards marketing, as Rivir’s manufacturing is not asset-heavy.
Published by: (Palak Agarwal)