Their core business being exporting genuine leather and agenting, it was in March 2018 that Divej Mehta and Deepesh Mehta decided to launch the brand 'Inmate' with the vision to offer high quality products handcrafted by inmates of different prisons. In an interview with Fibre2Fashion, the founders discuss their journey from 30 pairs a month to almost 4000, and how the brand is looking to reimagine the modern traditional footwear segment.
What was the vision behind founding of the brand?
We are perhaps the first footwear brand in the world to manufacture footwear from the prisons of India. Giving a second chance to an inmate who is not criminal minded, mostly ends up being a blessing in disguise and this I can tell from the experience after training and rehabilitating over 200 convicted inmates.? The idea of giving a 'conscious' customer the opportunity to buy a high quality product handcrafted by inmates who are serving their time inside the prisons was unheard of and that led to launch the brand.
Which are the categories that the brand is into? What is the USP of your products?
We are into men's and women's footwear (specialised modern handcrafted kolhapuris and casual sandals). Our USP is memory foam and handcrafted kolhapuris made by skilled inmates serving life sentences in Indian prisons.
Who are your target audience?
We look to serve the conscious customer base of India, ranging from 18 to 60 years of age. A customer who wants to wear a product with pride and with ownership of an Indian high quality product.
What has been your growth story in the last three years (excluding 2020)?
We started with selling about 30 pairs a month in 2018. Since then, we have been consistently growing in numbers and today we sell anywhere between 3000-4000 pairs a month.
What has been the impact of Covid in terms of sales, staff cutdown, rentals etc?
We expected 35-40 per cent loss in business but ended up with a negative 15 per cent overall. In terms of stocks, some styles which would have moved out got stuck due to Covid-19, impacting market conditions. Things are beginning to look up with the opening up of the markets.
What is the price point of your kolhapuris? Which category sells the most?
The price range is between Rs??1990-?2699, and men's and women's kolhapuris sell the most.
What is your retail and web presence like?
We retail through Regal Shoes, Rocia, INC5, Centro, Brand Factory, Agape- Kolkata, Peal Palace-Jaipur, Valentino Shoes- Agra and a few other individual conscious stores across the country. We also sell through our own website.
Which are your major markets?
Metro cities specifically in western and southern India
What is your market positioning?
We are a new age brand striving to serve a very specific demand of conscious customer. We want to further expand our market in the Indian market offering new age traditional footwear that also goes well with casualwear.
What are the brand building strategies you employ?
In times where branding is everything, we want to be old school and thrive on our word of mouth publicity and want to grow organically. We believe in the concept of organic slow growth being far better than a time star. But for awareness we prefer digital marketing.?
If you are looking for vendors, what are the top 3 qualities are you looking at beyond the givens of quality, lead time, compliances etc?
Loyalty, strong R&D and passion driven.
This article was first published in the February 2021 edition of the print magazine.
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