Interview: Gunjan Shah, MD and CEO, Bata India


Czech footwear and fashion retailer Bata has revamped its portfolio in India, to include more casualwear and sneakers. This segment now represents 25% of total sales. Gunjan Shah, MD and CEO tells Akanksha Nagar how online retail has become the fastest growing revenue channel for Bata India, even though it has ambitious expansion plans for offline stores . Excerpts:

In FY22, Bata had revenue of 2,387 crore. What will drive growth in FY23?

The company will continue to focus on the key areas of franchise and MBO (multi-brand outlet) expansion, communication, portfolio insecurity and digital footprint expansion. We saw good traction in casual wear. So a lot of work is going into “sneakerizing” and “casualizing” the entire portfolio, which we’ve also launched sneaker studios for. We currently have over 100 of these studios (like shop-in-shops) with 300 sneaker styles, across nine brands. Sneakers led our growth over the past fiscal year and contributed up to 25-30% of total revenue, which was 15% before the pandemic. Not only do we expect this growth to continue, but we want to reinforce it with the expansion of not only studios but also new collections. We expect the sneaker category to continue to drive our growth this fiscal year.

Accessories represent 8 to 9% of overall turnover. We plan to give it an extra boost, especially in the category of women’s handbags. Therefore, the company develops many local capabilities to transform designs and fashions much faster. We are striving to grow double digits, soon.

Bata’s online sales last fiscal year were more than double its pre-Covid levels. What are your plans to strengthen this?

Although we sell through both our site and online marketplaces, we also have a home delivery service – where if a product is not available in one store, it is collected later from another. store or warehouse to be delivered to the customer’s doorstep. Additionally, we have a store on Facebook and target consumers on Instagram with aggressive influencer marketing for all of our brands. The online channel is now the fastest growing revenue channel. We are present in all key markets. Much of the revenue comes from home delivery and online marketplaces; the balance is provided by our own website.

Has physical store footfall returned to pre-Covid levels?

Our offline sales currently account for 90% of turnover, of which 75% via own stores and franchises and 15% via MBOs. Footfall trends are improving significantly and increasing weekly in terms of consumer confidence. I don’t think the footsteps will be a constraint. To gain traction, we have renovated much of the network over the past six to eight months.

We currently have 1,400 exclusive points of sale and over 25,000 MBOs. The plan is to expand through the franchise channel more aggressively. Currently, we have 303 franchise stores and aim to grow to 500 stores within the next two to three years. The first step is 400 stores, which we should definitely reach by next year.
In addition to this, we have five Experience Centers, two in Mumbai and one in Bengaluru, New Delhi and Kolkata. We aim to open more of these centers in metros and mini-metros. Over the past six months, we have increased the number of sneaker studios and aim to have 200-250 by the end of this year. These are not geography specific and are spread across the country and networks – we have a separate microsite for this.

In addition to offline expansion, based on location and consumer segment, we are also focusing on customizing merchandise to penetrate deeper into markets.

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