“Relaxo, serving India from last 40 years” Mr. Rajeev Bhatia, AVP Marketing (Interview)

Our day starts by covering our soles with shoes and it ends with their removal. It shows, the footwear is equally important in our lives just like clothes and other accessories. It adds style, make us a symbol of fashion, protect us from rain, heat, ground textures and temperature. So, in India, which is a country with diverse climate and regions where the need of one person who lives in freezing area will totally be different to one from Rajasthan desert. So, to consummate such different requirements, the Relaxo footwear is here from last 40 years and keeps the same momentum by adding various new brands in order to walk abreast with the dynamic consumer demands. To know more about the brand and how they do this? We had a one to one interaction with Mr. Rajeev Bhatia, company’s AVP marketing


H2S Media: What is the condition of the footwear market in India?

Mr. Bhatia: The condition of the Indian market is good. It is a large market of 55000 crores, estimated; about 45% of that is branded rest of is unbranded. Basically, it is fragmented, between big players and small manufacturers those keep competing each other, however, generally, the market is growing at a good pace and what we feel, there is a scope for everybody because of the variety of peoples and their choices.

Earlier the consumers were buying only one kind of footwear, usually, the sleeper or pair of shoes to visit different occasions whether it is party, wedding, office etc. But now the life is changing and the status of people is rising too. They have a wide range of variety, access of internet to analyze the product online, awareness of looking good and disposal value of products all these factors are up swinging the overall economy. That’s why, if you see, now the average or middle-class people also have more than one pair of footwear, which not happened generally before. So, when consumers buy more than one pair, it gives the boost to the economy. And when 132 crore people start to think that there should be a different pair of shoes for different occasions then directly or indirectly that boost the growth of the footwear market in India too.

H2S Media: What kind of competition are you facing from international brands like Nike, Rebook, puma and so on?  

Mr. Bhatia: The Indian footwear market is very large, thus the choices and class of people too. So, there is a consumer segment for each kind of brand. What you have to do is the proper marketing and presenting your brand correctly to compete the stalwarts of your category. The foreigner brands name you took, their targeted consumers are totally different from us. Their prices are at the top of the consumer’s pyramid. But we are sitting at the middle level of the pyramid; which has the biggest share of the footwear market. In simple words, the middle class and lower class those can’t afford the extortionate prices of such foreign brands; need an option in the budget with reliability. So, our main focus is to cater such kind of consumers. Moreover, what we are giving is value for money while keeping in mind the diversity of the consumer choices. Of course, we have a competition but with only brands like us.

H2S Media: Why Relaxo has multiple sub-brands like Spark, Flite, Bahama and so on? When all of their products can be sold under one single parent brand, Relaxo.

Mr. Bhatia: Most of the industries are following the trend which you are talking about but we have realized early on; First, the profile of the consumer is different, the need of the different classes is not the same. Secondly, even having the same type of consumers, still, now it depends upon the occasion, what kind of footwear you are going to wear. Like I said, shoes for a morning walk is not the same as what you are going to wear for office. So, according to the need of the people, we have segregated the category of the footwear too.  It also helps the consumer to easily find out their style and requirements, even the customer is the same. For example, if you are looking slippers for a casual occasion the Bahamas is there, and in the same way, if someone wants something for his foot to go gym or running he may like to go for Sparx which also includes upmarket slippers. With Sparx, we tried to provide best in class but with affordability, also we tried to give international quality with an Indian brand name.

H2S Media: In the near future, can we expect, more premium footwear to target premium class of the society?

Mr. Bhatia: The mass of the market in India is the middle class and also the huge chunk of our population, that plays important role in the economy to increase it rapidly. The top of the consumer’s pyramid is conservative, however, if you see the bottom that instinctively moving towards the middle class. And that is where the volume lies for us. Moreover, the consumer is much smarter than before in terms of choice, appreciation, understanding, how he’s looks and they know where to spend money and what they are getting in that. So, in short, right now, we want to keep focusing on the area where we are…

H2S Media: Relaxo is also catering the international market, so you exporting the raw material or finished products?

Mr. Bhatia: If you go abroad, you will see there are a lot of India diaspora like Gulf markets, Asian countries or African region. Their roots belong to India and we are offering them one of the finest Indian footwear quality; for them, we export the entire finished product manufactured in India.

H2S Media: Recently, Xiaomi has launched smart shoes with GPS capabilities; so is there any plan of Relaxo of doing something same in near future?

Mr. Bhatia: No, Not really because that is a very limited segment, right now. As I said earlier, such kind of additions also increase the price of a finished product, moreover, it meant only for certain type of peoples. We really like to serve the country by giving the products which of their regular use and can serve the maximum number of people and can satisfy their needs. For example, a shopkeeper, commuter, kids, etc. not want some GPS tracking or health tracking shoes for their daily activities.

H2S Media: What is the current market share of Relaxo in India?

Mr. Bhatia: There is no organized estimation about it but definitely we can say that we have a PAN India presence; we are present in more than 50000 retail outlets of footwear across the length and breadth of the country. All our brands are available everywhere and officially, we can say that this time we have crossed 2000 crore which means our products are really popular among the peoples. However, there is no fixed market share but you can say it would be around 5 to 6 percent.

H2S Media: How GST has effected Relaxo?

Mr. Bhatia: We are very happy that the government has implemented the GST. It has given us a level playing field; earlier there was different taxation structure across different cities of the country. Like I said, we are PAN India company, there was always an issue for us, how to equate the prices so that there should be an equal effect on various regions, luckily, with the GST, now we can offer one nature and one price that’s’ why we are very happy with it. Plus, the unorganized players, who were there earlier also sometimes affect the organized ones; but now all that become equal and we all are playing on the same field. And that’s really a good advantage for the country and Relaxo too.

H2S Media: Any brand expansion plans?

Mr. Bhatia: We recently have launched the Relaxo Plus, so it is very easy to call or start a new brand but in reality, it is very difficult to nourish and grow a new brand. It takes a lot of efforts and energy because you have to work according to your consumer; you have to listen to what exactly the customers want. If you wish to survive and sustain in the market. So, what are the brands, we launched so far are only after a careful analysis… Because launching just a name not make you a brand.

H2S Media: What about the innovations?

Mr. Bhatia: We are constantly working on new product lines. Also, our new product development center keeps watching the changing trend and market behavior and then accordingly, we do altering our products to launch a new range of footwear. We also keep involving our self by intermittently upgrading the technology used to make footwear and investing in the designs in order to decrease unrest and fulfill the future demands of the consumers. About 20% of our products are new products those appear in the market after proper research.

The Relaxo is the more organized player in the industry; we work in a systematic manner and most importantly, we listen to the voice of the consumers…