Kashif Mohammad always had a keen interest in the leather industry, thanks to his family business of leather goods production in Kanpur. Later, a degree from IIM Ahmedabad only fueled his curiosity. Mohammad, along with his batchmate Aravind Maddireddy, dreamt of doing something in the leather industry, that would also have the scope to expand globally.
Soon, they zeroed in on a major global trend, something that the Indian market had a dearth of — customised products, and the duo realised, what could be better than personalised shoes. What's more, the shoe industry, across brands, had its own shortcomings. “My feet size is 7.5, so neither 7 nor 8 fits me perfectly. Similarly, Aravind has broader feet which becomes a problem for him,” says Mohammad.
Recalling their groundwork, Maddireddy adds, “We tried formal shoes from four separate brands. The same size across brands had varying fits and none of them had much design variation. If at all one pattern of a particular brand fit, the other one of the same brand and size wouldn’t.”
They started Rapawalk to address all these issues. On their website, the customer can design his own shoes which are priced between Rs.5,000 and Rs.7,200. The price range has been kept in competition with brands such as Hush Puppies and Roush. The founders felt that online shoe brands such as Roush and Red Tape lacked focus on the Indian market as their main production was getting exported.
The Bengaluru-based start-up sources its leather from the finest tanneries of Italy and Mexico, and are handpainted, according to Mohammad. He elaborates, “Handpainting is an Italian technique where an organic oil and wax are applied on the shoe to give it a paint-like finishing. We have trained few of our artisans in Italy to learn this technique.”
Their core team has 12 members including the founders. The partners have tried to get the blend right by hiring designers from NIFT, tech team from IIT and supply chain experts from Unilever. Post their initial online launch campaign, the sales team now plans to increase awareness by calling on companies directly. Their primary customers have been metro-based millennials. According to a recent report by Deloitte and Retailers Association of India, 47% of the working population in the country are millennials aged between 18 and 35. This gives Rapawalk with a vast market.
Going forward, they plan to launch an economic range priced at Rs.3,000, for which the leather will be sourced from Indian tanneries. Once they have estalished themselves in the local market. the duo dream of going global by expanding into the Middle East and the US.