In the realm of fancy footwear, one brand has emerged with a mission to take the traditional Kolhapuri chappals to global heights. Meet Harshwardhan Patwardhan, the visionary founder of Chappers India, who embarked on a remarkable journey to transform how we perceive and experience this iconic footwear. With a passion for breaking norms and an unwavering love for Kolhapuri chappals, Harshwardhan set out to create a brand that would bring these age-old treasures to the world stage.
Inspired by his deep connection with Kolhapuri chappals, Harshwardhan recognized their timeless appeal and sought to preserve their centuries-old craftsmanship. The allure of these chappals lies in their unwavering authenticity, as they have remained virtually unchanged for over 500 years. From the materials used to the meticulous artistry, Kolhapuri chappals have stood the test of time, captivating wearers with their beauty and simplicity.
Join us as we delve into the remarkable world of Chappers India, where age-old artistry meets contemporary flair. Discover the stories, craftsmanship, and boundless possibilities that await within the realm of Kolhapuri chappals. Prepare to be captivated by a brand that celebrates tradition while embracing the vibrant spirit of today’s fashion-forward individuals. Welcome to the new era of Kolhapuri chappals, brought to you by Chappers India.
A small introduction about yourself
My name is Harshwardhan Patwardhan, and I founded Chappers India. My ultimate goal is to make Kolhapuri known worldwide. Additionally, I have a strong passion for football and life in general. I find breaking norms to be exhilarating.
What is Chappers? What inspired it?
During my college days, I was an avid fan of Kolhapuri chappals and would wear them regularly. People often asked me where they could purchase a pair and how to source them. Even after completing my Master’s degree in management in Nottingham, UK, this idea stayed with me. Upon my return to India, I worked alongside my father in the transportation industry but found it unfulfilling. That’s when I decided to take a chance and start my own business – Chappers. If I loved Kolhapuri chappals so much, why couldn’t the rest of the world? And so, the journey began.
What’s so special in Kolhapuri chappals that you like it so much?
Kolhapuri Chappals holds a special place in my heart because they have remained unchanged for the past 500 years. The materials used and the craftsmanship involved in making them have remained the same. Their original locations have also remained unchanged. I believe that the world deserves to witness such timeless beauty and craftsmanship. This is why I ventured into the Kolhapuri market. At Chappers, we modify Kolhapuri’s to make them practical for the 21st century. Original Kolhapuri’s are hard, slippery, and only available in a typical brown color. However, at Chappers, we add memory foam insoles, offer vibrant colors such as super cool orange neons and pink, and also provide customization options. You can have your Kolhapuri Chappals delivered to your doorstep.
How do you manage to customize Kolhapuri chappals?
We have a loyal customer base of approximately 35,000 individuals who trust us to provide them with top-quality footwear that meets their unique needs. In contrast to typical footwear stores that offer limited color options, we specialize in providing a wide range of vibrant colors, including oranges, neon greens, pinks, yellows, and reds, which are popular among today’s fashion-conscious men. Moreover, we offer a high degree of customization, such as adding initials, studs, chains, buckles, or any other personalized features that our customers desire, which sets us apart from our competitors.
What sets your footwear brand apart from others in the industry?
Our brand specializes in Kolhapuris, setting us apart from others in the market. While other brands may offer similar products, we take pride in our core product. While there may be little room for innovation with Kolhapuris, we strive to innovate as much as possible. For instance, over the past five years, we’ve introduced Kolhapuris with colorful foams, suede linings, and neon colors, which our customers have come to expect from us.
Customization is key for us; hence we’ve invested heavily in that area. We’ve launched India’s first ER platform, which allows customers to customize their chappals and shoes on a touch screen. With over 10,000 combinations now available, anyone can create a design that suits their preferences.
There is nothing for women. Or are you going?
Our collection of women’s footwear is currently limited, but we plan to expand it gradually. Our brand has historically been more focused on men’s footwear, as that’s where we began.
I struggled to find a pair of brogues I liked and could afford during my college years. This frustrating experience inspired the creation of chappers. Now, shopping with us is simple. You can select the leather, design, and size of the shoe you want, customize it to your liking, and place your order. Within a few days, your new shoes will arrive at your doorstep.
How many big celebrities have used this footwear?
Thankfully, our designs are one-of-a-kind and not easily replicated by other brands. We have even created our materials and accessories to maintain our uniqueness. This sets us apart from the competition and has attracted high-profile clients such as Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Raj Thackeray, Aditya Thackeray, and many politicians and actors like Mahesh Babu. We feel fortunate to have such esteemed clients.
What is your company’s philosophy on responsible and sustainable manufacturing?
There is much skepticism surrounding claims of sustainability made by several brands. True sustainability means creating a cycle where whatever goes in must come back. This is only possible if the materials used are biodegradable. Unfortunately, some brands claim sustainability using carbon-based materials like vegan leather, which takes hundreds of years to decompose. At Chappers, we prioritize sustainability by using leather, the most sustainable material available. No animals are killed for their leather since it is a by-product of the meat industry. This makes leather the most sustainable way to conduct a footwear business today. We avoid using materials that can harm the planet but also strive to balance customer preferences with environmental concerns. For instance, we use TPU soles in our Kolhapuri because they provide customers with more comfort and grip. Although TPU is not the most environmentally friendly material, it is recyclable and can be made into a new sole again. Therefore, we use it to give our customers a better experience and longer-lasting footwear.
Can you describe your company’s typical customer?
Our typical customer falls within the age range of 20 to 45, enjoys dressing up, has a zest for life, and is enthusiastic and driven.
How will AI help in your business?
The implementation of artificial intelligence is undeniably beneficial. Sorting materials manually is tedious and time-consuming, and identifying authentic leather can be challenging due to its unpredictable nature. With the assistance of AI, we can swiftly and effortlessly select only the highest-quality materials.
Are there any significant achievements to date?
Our company participated in Shark Tank Season 2, and even though we couldn’t secure funding and didn’t make it to TV, we did succeed in obtaining a place in the top 200 out of 200,000 applicants. Moreover, we have a customer base of 35,000, and Entrepreneur magazine has identified us as one of India’s top 100 D2C brands.
You mentioned Shark Tank; how was the experience over there?
The experience of pitching in the Shark Tank competition was great, and the process was seamless. Initially, I didn’t have high expectations because filling out the application form for such a big competition usually felt futile. Nonetheless, the form was well-structured, and I completed it within an hour and a half before forgetting about it altogether.
To my surprise, a month later, I received an email notifying me that I had been selected for Round 2 out of the five or six rounds of selection. Afterward, I had an interview and was required to submit videos of my page, manufacturing unit, and stores. Fortunately, my business got selected, and the entire process was pleasant. I had the opportunity to meet with the Sharks, and they provided valuable insights. Although they were not interested in investing in a customization-focused company, I believe we can scale this business model.
We are catering to 35,000 customers in less than ten years; after this, we plan to establish 350 franchises and expand our operations beyond India. It’s worth noting that no custom-made footwear brand has catered to such a considerable number in the past.
What is your companies approach to customer service and support?
This company was founded with a clear purpose: to provide customized footwear for individuals who share my passion. My goal was not to acquire knowledge or experience but to satisfy the needs of those who desire a unique pair of shoes, such as a handcrafted Kolhapuri. Our unwavering commitment to putting our customers first remains our top priority, and we take immense pride in exceeding their expectations by fulfilling any requests, whether it involves designing a brand-new shoe or customizing an existing one.
What are your plans for the future?
Our team is currently working on a production model known as mass customization. This entails having all the necessary components for a specific type of footwear readily available in our factory. The selling process will take place at the front end, including franchise-owned and self-owned stores and other retail formats. Our goal is to have approximately 100 franchisees within the next 5 to 7 years, with the potential to receive 100 orders per hour. With this in mind, we are devising a production plan that allows for mass customization while ensuring that all orders can be assembled and dispatched on the same day. Additionally, we are developing a franchise plan, with our first franchisee already signed and set to open in July or August.
As a founder, what did you learn?
My journey as a business founder taught me that following your passion can lead to success. Initially, I doubted whether passion could earn me money because financial capital is essential to start a business. However, I encourage readers to pursue their passions and transform them into a business, as it can be the most fulfilling form of entrepreneurship.
Moreover, I have realized that employee commitment is more valuable than talent. A committed employee who gives their best will yield better results than a talented but non-committed employee. Therefore, I prioritize commitment when selecting employees.
Lastly, I believe that outsiders are the ones who can bring about significant change in the industry. As an outsider in the Kolhapuri footwear segment, I may not have revolutionized the industry, but I have made a significant impact. Insiders cannot think like outsiders, meaning only outsiders can bring a fresh perspective and innovate.
These are the invaluable lessons I have learned as a founder, and I hope they can inspire others on their journey toward entrepreneurship.
Chappers India has shattered the boundaries of conventional footwear, offering a kaleidoscope of colors and customization options that empower individuals to showcase their unique style. The integration of modern comforts, such as memory foam insoles, ensures that wearers look stylish and enjoy unparalleled comfort. By seamlessly blending tradition with contemporary design, Chappers India has redefined the very essence of Kolhapuri chappals.
As we bid farewell to traditional limitations, Chappers India has given us the freedom to walk confidently, embracing the rich heritage of Kolhapuri chappals while infusing them with our flair. The journey of Chappers India represents the harmonious coexistence of past and present, authenticity, and innovation. Step into a world where timeless tradition meets modern sensibilities and let Chappers India be your guide to an extraordinary footwear experience.