Big Idea

Sole Expertise

D:FY wants to sell high-end sneakers at honest prices

Soumik Kar

When it comes to shoes, here is a surprising insight: customers often buy sneakers without giving much thought to its purpose and requirements. As such, they end up wearing an expensive multisport sneaker for their daily walk. “In our country, people are into walking as a daily exercise regime than running,” says Prashant Desai, co-founder, D:FY.

“India has not been able to build a decent sports brand which offers greater technology at honest prices. We are heavily dependent on foreign brands,” he adds. Finding an opportunity there, Desai and his co-founder, Rajiv Mehta spent around 18 months researching and sourcing the components of what they call “sneakers for the Indian feet.” Mehta’s stint as the CEO of Arvind Sports Lifestyle and the MD of Puma India brought in the much-needed expertise on building the product.

He says, “Designing the last was the most important step. Most of the manufacturing of sports shoes happens in China. Indians tend to have broader feet as they either wear slippers and sandals or don’t wear footwear at all through the day.” It took around three months for the founders to finalise the last, which involved frequent travelling to China.

The start-up presently offers six sizes (both for men and women) of sneakers in three different categories: walking, gym and multisport. The gym shoe is the first of its kind in the country that the brand is offering. “Gym training involves a lot of stretching and cardio exercises which requires us to put pressure on the heels. The shoe we created does exactly that, the entire body weight comes to the heel,” Mehta explains.

Attempting to not come across as a knock-off of popular global brands in terms of design, the founders started looking for good shoe designers within the country. After a failed search, they set their eyes on Portland. The city is known as the hub of designers for global brands. “We met a group of really passionate designers who worked for us. As a result, we have managed to come up with some interesting colours for our shoes. People here often go for the looks of a product over technology,” says Mehta.

A significant portion of the start-up’s bootstrapped investment went into designing the mould for the sole. Each mould costs between $2,000-4,000 and an amount of $120,000 was invested in the sole. Shank, a component used by high-end global brands to maintain balance and avoid the twisting of the feet was also used. This costed between $120,000-180,000.

Apart from sneakers, the start-up also has a section for sportswear. The sneakers are priced between Rs.2,500-5,000, targeting beginners, amateur sportsperson and everyone else who wants to stay fit. It is worth asking, how the founders managed to price the shoes so low, which they claim are at par with the Rs.10,000 and above ranged shoes from brands such as Adidas and Puma. Desai answers, “We first fixed the price range for the shoes and decided the components and technology to invest accordingly.”

D:FY will soon open 23 stores across nine cities by the end of November. At present, they have seven functional stores in major cities. The Mumbai-based start-up has also entered into a partnership with Amazon India, apart from selling at the large-format retail giant, Central. The conversion rate of customers currently is at 30% and the founders are looking forward to opening 60 stores by Diwali next year.