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Interview with Devendra Gupta

Industry Speak
Devendra Gupta
Devendra Gupta

Casual couture is a big trend

Reforce, a start-up based in Gurgaon, aims to revolutionise the fitness scenario in India. The brand provides affordable athleisure footwear in categories like sports shoes, sneakers, lifestyle shoes, slides, floaters and flip-flops for both men and women. Director Devendra Gupta discusses GST on footwear and the plans to expand the brand's offline presence.

What is the global market size for footwear? What is India's share in the global footwear business?

The footwear market is emerging in production as well as consumption. India is second in terms of footwear production accounting for 9 per cent of the annual global production, and third in footwear consumption after China. The Indian footwear retail market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20 per cent in next three years. The tier-II and III cities comprise 55 per cent of the total consumption in India.

What factors have shaped the growth of this segment?

The factors shaping the growth of this segment include increasing number of athletes; an urge to stay fit; avoid injuries during exercise; health consciousness among people; and changing lifestyles.

What are your thoughts on GST for the footwear sector?

The GST rates on footwear should be reduced. The domestic footwear sector holds a huge potential for creating jobs and earning foreign exchange. A reduction of GST will help the industry grow. The rate should be reduced to 12 per cent on footwear priced above ₹1,000.

Which are the best-selling styles? Which are the best-selling price points?

Reforce sells footwear ranging from ₹299 to ₹999 to customers, who like these price points. Reforce offers men's and women's shoes, sandals and sneakers, flip-flops. We are coming up with a new collection of apparel next month for men and women.

What innovations are you working on with fibres, soles, and linings?

Today, each design needs innovation in terms of soles, upper and lining and compounding. Our regular workout foam provides a longer period of energy return than the traditional EVA material. Drive foam's shock absorbing technology offers lasting and excellent rebound performance. For sole, we use one-piece rubber outsole for great cushion and comfort. It bends easily and provides great flexibility-super fibre for great warmth. A full rubber arc design on the mid-sole provides full feet cushioning and forward flexibility during running. For lining and cushion, we use shock-absorbing material that provides extra protection from harmful impact forces with additional heel cushioning. Our soles are 30-40 per cent lighter than other shoes. Through advanced technology, our Ultra Shell integrates high-performance plastic materials into the vamp. It can reduce the weight too. At the same time, it provides the foot with a dynamic protection and support function to deal with high-intensity movements.
What innovations are you working on with fibres, soles, and linings?

Which top materials do you use?

The materials we select for our designs are what make our shoemaking ideas come to life. You will find the shoe pattern is not the critical or special feature-the materials are. For Reforce shoes, we use materials such as textiles, synthetics, rubber, foam and plastic.

Each has its specific uses. Depending on your design, each material will have a place in your shoe. Material selection is one of the fundamentals of shoe design. We use different type of textiles in the form of fly-knit, knitted and canvas. We import materials from China, Taiwan and Vietnam and we make shoes in India with premium materials.

What are the consumer trends you see when it comes to footwear in India?

As consumers' exposure to multichannels on TV, movies, content has increased over years, their expectation from footwear has evolved. Buying shoes for special occasions is being elevated to the position of being a norm. Advent of digital technologies and penetration of smartphones bring instant awareness for Indian consumers about the latest global trends, lighting a fire of aspiration within them. Footwear is not just for utility anymore; they are a fashion statement. Of late, however, comfort fares at the same level of being a determining factor for consumers in buying footwear. Casual couture has kicked in as a big trend and along with that the sales of sneakers have risen.

What are the challenges in this industry?

The footwear industry has been largely an unorganised and scattered industry in different parts of the country. Though technology has marked its impact in modernisation of footwear, there are still many challenges that this industry faces like timely delivery of products, managing multiple warehouses and stores, effective utilisation of stock, seamless management of returns and cancellations, increased cost of reverse logistics, and easy transition to present taxation policies. (HO)
Published on: 22/10/2019

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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