Chappers: Traditional Footwear Brand Through Innovative Indian Craftsmanship

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Maharashtra has a rich and varied arts heritage. Kolhapuri chappals are one of the most popular hand-made crafts from locally sourced leathers. It has its origin in the Kolhapur town of Maharashtra. Kolhapuri chappals are made from leather using only natural ingredients. They are the best example of ethnic and traditional fashion footwear that are eco-friendly and handcrafted. Startups are taking initiatives with their innovative approach to preserving the ancient craft traditions of India and supporting Indian craftsmanship. Chappers is one of the brands that is reviving craftsmanship in India. They started with Kolhapuri chappal and now bringing a revolution in footwear fashion, especially for men.

Chappers - Company Highlights

  • Startup Name-Chappers
  • Headquarters-Pune
  • Industry-Footwear
  • Founder-Harshwardhan Patwardhan
  • Founded -2014

Chappers - About

Chappers is a men-focused brand. They make footwear for women too but there are bigger issues to solve when it comes to men’s footwear. Chappers aims to solve the following problems in the Indian footwear industry:

Men are taught not to wear good colours. The industry hence makes only black, brown, and grey for them. Those who want to wear colours do not have options.

Custom footwear is often very expensive and unreliable. they want to change that. They give men brilliant quality custom footwear at the right price.

Mass customization would be the norm in a few years. They want to be the brand that revolutionizes the footwear industry.

Footwear and technology usually never go hand in hand. The Indian footwear industry is very unorganized and needs disruption. They have built India’s first virtual customization software where the customer will be able to customize the footwear on large touch screens first, check if it suits their taste, and then place an order for it. They aim to home deliver a custom pair of footwear within 72 hours.

This industry is heavily reliant on inventory. Retailers have to stock up huge number of styles only to know that only a few of them work. Later they have to offer heavy discounts on styles that don’t work. With our model, our franchises will keep only bestsellers in stock and the rest will be custom-made. Since the lead time will be just 72 hours, the customer won't mind waiting. Plus, the price of the in-stock designs and the custom product will be the same, adding to the value.

Chappers - Founder and Team

Harshwardhan Patwardhan is the founder of Chapppers. He has completed his MSC in management from the University of Nottingham.

Currently, they are a team of 25 people including a sales team, operations team, accounts team, and a team of expert craftsmen. Each of them has the vision to make Chappers the best footwear brand India has ever seen.

Chappers - The Idea and Startup Story

Chappers initially started with a vision to take the Kolhapuri chappal global. Harshwardhan first came across Kolhapuri chappals on his first traditional day in college. His brother gave him ancient-looking chappals to wear under his kurta and he fell in love with them. Since then, there hasn’t been a day that he has not worn a Kolhapuri. But it had certain negatives. It was hard, slippery, and available only in the traditional brown colour. He started wondering if he could change these things. Would people in Europe/Latin America wear this chappal if he worked on the negatives? He started researching and working with different materials and that’s when Chappers was incepted.

Chappers - Name and Logo

Before the founder even started finding a name for the brand, people had started placing orders, as they found his work interesting and wanted cool-looking-new-age Kolhapuris. He had booked a stall at a flea market in Phoenix Market City, Pune and they asked by what name should they reserve the stall. That night, he chalked out close to 200 names but only 1 stuck. He took “Chapp” from “Chappals” and since I was making them comfortable and in a way westernizing the chappal, he added “ers” to it like Slipp”ers” or Loaf”ers”. He joined them together and it made a very short and sweet brand name “Chappers”. Since the name was coined by Harshwardhan, I had no issues in trademarking and copyrighting it too!

He asked one of his friends to develop a logo for the startup, based on the concept of taking Kolhapuris global. So, he actually drew a Kolhapuri and fit the font such that “C” was the heel and “S” was the thumb! And he loved it!

Chappers - Products

Chappers have now expanded into many different products. After a point the founder realized that his interest lies not only in taking the Kolhapuri global, but also the Indian craftsmanship. They want to start with revolutionizing the Indian footwear industry completely. They design great products and enable the customers to customize it in their own colors. They let them add accessories, their initials on the shoes and try to do all of this in a very reliable way and at the right price. Now, they don’t restrict themselves in terms of the nationality of the products origin or the century it was first made in. They want to build great, innovative products and want people to wear them in their own favorite colors. Imagine if a brand starts giving custom footwear at the right price and in a lead time as low as 2 days, why does the footwear industry need crores and crores of inventory?

Chappers - Business Model

Chappers' business model is very simple. It is a very complicated model to understand for an outsider. But for the customer, it is very simple.

The customer walks into the store/Kiosk and checks their shoe size by trying on their sizing samples. He then sees two sections - RTW (ready to wear) and customization. If he wants to pick up a pair right away, they have a selection of 25-30 bestsellers in stock at all their stores. But, if he has 2-3 days at hand, he can take a look at our customization section. There, he will see numerous designs in unimaginable colours and material variety. He can touch and feel the product, select the design he likes and then move on to a big touch screen. On the touch screen, through their virtual customization platform, he will be able to change, colours, and materials, add accessories to the design that he selected, and then see how the product looks on his feet with the help of an iPad. He can then place an order. If not, he can just enter his mobile number and the shoe that he designed will be sent on WhatsApp to him for future reference. If he does place the order, the full customized product will reach his home in the next 2-3 working days.

Now that he knows his size and fit, he can even customize any design on Chappers' website and place the order from the comfort of his home.

Chappers - Revenue Model

Their policy is to never undercharge or overcharge the customer. Whenever they develop a product, their aim is to provide the maximum value to the customer. They never are cheap nor expensive, they just aim to sell their products at the “right price”.

For example, if a customer looks at a product and feels that it’s worth Rs.5000, then that product should be priced at Rs.4999. They pay their craftsmen very well. They want to ensure both sides of the supply chain are equally happy with them. The team of craftsmen and employees should be equally happy, hence they do not believe in discount marketing. They make good quality products and expect the right price for them.

Chappers - Customer Acquisition

This bit came easy for them. They made the first 100 samples and booked a flea market stall. They sold 90 out of the 100 pairs on the first day!!

After the first flea market experience, their confidence soared. They started believing in the product even more. But, where they can go to sell every day? They couldn’t get a stall. So, they built a basic website and social media pages. First, the orders started coming in through friends and family and then through their friends and family and the circle grew. Since Pune is a small community-like city. Word of mouth spread fast. Slowly they started getting online orders too. But people always asked one question – where can they come and try the footwear? So, they opened their first store on Karve road, Pune. Their stores are very uniquely designed. Big wooden chair, embroidered carpets, and footwear handled with gloves. Not every footwear store does that. Hence, they immediately got a good response for the store too.

Chappers - Hiring Culture

In Chappers, your degree does not count. Whenever they are interviewing, they keep the CV aside and talk to the candidate. They want all their team members to be problem solvers. Good manners and extremely high morals are definitely needed if you want to be a part of the team. Patriotism is also a must if you are to qualify as a team member. People who love India and want to do something for the country have a different outlook towards life, Chappers team wants to work with such people.

Chappers - Challenges Faced

When Harshwardhan Patwardhan decided to explore the opportunity, he had no background in footwear or business in the leather industry or retail industry. He is from a transport background as his family is into people and goods transport. He had to learn from scratch.

Second, the footwear and leather industry in India is very unorganized. There are still many vendors who are not on Google. Additionally, nobody wants to work with a person who is just starting out, has no industry experience, and has no money. From vendors to employees, the founder had rejection all around.

Duplication has also been one of the major challenges. As they started becoming successful, small factories started copying their products and selling them cheaper. They had to develop a lot of IP surrounding their logo to safeguard themselves from this duplication mafia.

The INR 2000 and above market is dominated by foreign brands. Unfortunately, we think that foreign brands deserve higher MRPs and our own Indian brands don’t. People have said things like “Indian brand hai na to 1000 tak price thik hai”. Our people take pride in wearing foreign brands and undervaluing Indian brands. Building a footwear brand that does not have a single product priced under Rs.2000 is definitely a tough path under current circumstances. But they believe in India, they believe in their products and they believe in the future. This keeps them going.

Chappers - Growth

Right now, they have four stores in Pune and they deliver across India when ordered online. They have even delivered orders to 27 foreign countries. Chappers' revenue is around 2.5 crores and they have approximately 27,000 customers to date. Their returning customer rate is 40% which is pretty high for a footwear brand.

Chappers - Funding

Fortunately, till now they have always been profitable and self-sufficient. Even during the pandemic, they had to modify a lot of systems and cost structures but they strived and remained profitable. They will start looking for funding this year as they think now their business model is well evolved and they are aware of what has worked for them and what has not. The new model can truly revolutionize the entire footwear industry and they will come out on top. If they stick to the plan and keep capturing their goals, they think they can be the Zomato of footwear.

Chappers - Competitors

Their perspective and attitude are a lot different from other local brands. They do not believe in the fact that they can sell whatever they make. They think that the customer is always aware of the latest trends and just needs some help in imagining stuff. Its job as a brand is to help its customers imagine newer things and they do so by giving them a platform to play around on. They can play around and find out what colours they like the most, and which designs suit them the most. Usually, retailers dictate what you should wear. They tell customers why they can’t wear a yellow chappal or a red shoe. They do so because they don’t have a yellow chappal or a red shoe to sell. But they can make a yellow chappal, a red shoe, and a gold sandal!! So, for the initial few years, competitors never took Chappers seriously, only when they realized that people actually want to wear these colours, did they start thinking about developing such products. They want to make competition irrelevant with their new model. Can established footwear brands give each customer a custom pair? The answer is they cannot. Because they have huge factories to feed. They love making 1 lakh black shoes. Chappers don’t.

Chappers - Future Plans

They are currently trying out a kiosk franchise model. They have Kiosks at Pune’s Pavilion mall and at Seasons mall Magarpatta. A kiosk franchise would give a better return on investment to the franchise owner as the expenses are much lower. Plus, since the majority of the orders are custom-made, its inventory requirement automatically comes down. If there’s a Chappers Kiosk in all malls of India, they will get thousands of custom orders every day. Imagine what that will do to brands that say no to customization. They think they are in a world where people buy ready products just because there’s no choice. If they have a choice at the right price, very few people will buy ready products. They want to create an environment in which other brands want to join. This will be true change.

Chappers - Tools Used in the Company

Technology is their backbone. They prefer to use easily readily available software around difficult business systems. That somehow makes the job easy. Of course, they have developed their proprietary Virtual Customization software ourselves. That they would always keep with them as it's one of the key features of their new business model. They are continuously working on it and want to ensure they constantly keep adding new colors, materials, and products for their customers.

Chappers - Advice from Founder

Harshwardhan Patwardhan, Founder of Chappers:

I think starting early is essential. The amount of learning I got from starting Chappers, no university or degree can give me. Instead, I would encourage the next generation to go explore the world, take a one-way ticket and go on a solo trip to advanced countries. Once we get that exposure, we always get a different perspective. We always try to improve our country that way and I think that’s the most important job any human can do. I would skip the college degrees and I would take up internships in global companies. I would be able to absorb their culture and their know-how. That would take me a million steps ahead of the game.

I would also start reading earlier. I hated reading my entire childhood, partly because I was never good at studies, but partly also because I never tried enough. I think reading takes you in minds of the people you cannot physically reach. One of the first books I completed was “Screw it lets do it” by Sir Richard Branson. Sir Richard has been my idol since then and I have truly tried living his principles. I have failed at many of them, but while trying them out, I became a better person. Books are priceless.


When was Chappers founded?

Chappers was founded in 2014 in Pune

Who is the owner of Chappers?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan is the founder of Chappers.

What is Chappers famous for?

Chappers is a Men-focussed Indian footwear brand popular for Kolhapuri Chappals.