The history of footwear goes back to the time when our species’ members first generated independent thought about the fact that his or her feet needed to be protected from the external environment in addition to other body parts. The evidence for this proclaims a timeline of roughly forty thousand years ago. Human ingenuity ensured that footwear kept evolving over time, and the advent of machines in the industrial west in the eighteenth century gave an impetus to standardize footwear shapes and sizes.
Material objects tend to be an extension of the individual or collective personalities of the people who create them. For some, footwear remains just that, a necessity to be bought and nothing more, nothing less. For some, footwear is something to be carefully chosen, debated about and bought not just for its functional value, which is to protect the feet, but also to make an individual statement, that could be an ideology they believe in or a form of artwork close to their hearts because of its aesthetic appeal.
Popular culture is always in a constant state of flux, courtesy changing trends and lifestyles, making people aware about multiple forms of arts, causes, values, ideologies and beliefs, which they want to talk about, opinionate about and influence others to ascribe to their line of thought. Footwear, for a long time was purely functional. It’s no more so. Footwear brands have realized the importance of incorporating art into their products and personalize them according to the senses of each customer.
Bangalore Insider met Rivir, a footwear brand which is at the forefront of creating footwear products personalized according to one’s arty tastes.
Give a brief info about your startup?
Rivir is a footwear fashion tech brand that makes art wearable and personalize shoes. Our made to order model is disrupting the inventory ridden footwear industry. We are aiding NGOs to build schools, by converting artwork by children into designs.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
Rivir, is born out of my passion to paint on shoes, which started off back in my school days. My class teacher saw my innate quality to sell my talents and as a test, gave me INR 500 to go buy Bata PT shoes, and make some designs as a prototype. I got orders pouring in, all my weekends were booked and I realized that this was not just a hobby. This passion grew over the years, and turned into fruition when I met Viresh during my MBA in MICA.
There are not a single brand in the market that gives the customer the opportunity to wear their choice of designs on their feet. Surprisingly, our primary audience has been men, who are not only more experimental, they love the simplicity and ease of purchase on our website.
Today, women are kicking off their heels and looking for more comfortable options, and we as a brand want to be able to be available to them to be the option they sought after.We give customers the option to custom design their footwear as well, choose their laces, and the print that they like, and the responses have been phenomenal!
We have more! We truly believe that in our little ways we can make a large impact in the society. And big brands should and are moving towards social enterprises, instead of being totally capitalist. Today we support 5 villages in Maharashtra become self-sufficient with our artist hunt programs, with a percentage royalty deal with NGOs associated with them. These banjara children now have schools, sanitation and health supplements, that brings us a step closer to a healthier future generation!
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
I am a chemical engineer & a MICA alumnus, with 6 yrs of branding and digital marketing experience and a lifetime of practicing art. Art, a knack, went on to become a passion, which led to create a brand that expands the horizons of footwear designs.
Viresh Madan, my business partner, head of operations and product development. Worked in the world of digital in multiple agencies and also co-founded a tech startup. He brings in immense knowledge about market analytics and is fantastic in sales.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
- We are based out of Gurgaon. Delhi NCR is one of the leading startup hubs and are close to a massive array of vendors in the space of clothing and footwear.
- As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
- As a startup in the B2C space, keeping customer satisfaction at its pinnacle is what makes it a brand and not just a seller. We want customers to come back and ask for more. Ensuring the right customers are targeted to sell, and when we do, engaging them, inviting them back and growing that community, keeps me on my toes.
Who are your competitions and how are you better than them?
Rivir Shoes have a unique twist in designs, with the lowest turnaround time. The products are created within 24 hours post an order is placed. We bring to the table what none of our competitors in the designer space get, quick service.
Large shoe manufacturers, provide quick delivery, but do not and cannot offer customization, neither do they have a large design variety categorically since they manufacture their SKUs in large quantities. Moreover, they fall prey to stocking of slow moving designs, and a large amount of their CAPEX goes into their inventory.
Curated hand painted designers, on the other hand, are limited to hand painting shoes, which has very little scalability, a very high turnaround time and hence many have shut down, over the years.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
Work life balance is a sensitive line that every entrepreneur should draw. I make allocated time for my family in the day and do not let emails affect me. This practice has been handed down from my parents, since I saw them create that work and life gap to ensure they do not overlap and cause trouble.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
We have not raised funds yet. Yes, we are looking to raise funds.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
That online selling is easy and makes a lot of money! The exchanges, the refusals to accept orders, fake COD orders fall straight in the line of cash burn and trying to tackle that is one of the major challenges.
What gets you excited about this company?
The potential of the Casual footwear market in India is a $2.6 Billion, yet is an extremely unorganized sector, with customization restricted to hand painted artists, as of now. Market leaders like Bata and Liberty are in the mass market space, and foreign entrants like Vans and Converse are yet to set foot in significant values in India. We see celebrities lining up to buy our products, stylists wanting to feature us and customers coming back to get new shoes, everyday! Plus, we are doing something for the society as well. It’s a millennial business.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
A typical day starts at 7 am, with some morning warm up and some newspaper. By 9:30 our associates start walking into our workshop and by 10, we are all set up to begin! We work till about 6:30 pm with lunch and chai breaks. We as co-founders typically take about an hour to wind up and go home. Luckily, my co-founder and life partner is the same person, and have the same home to go to. We spend a good 2-3 hours chatting and laughing and gather around for dinner and hit the bed by about 12 am. I generally like reading up something, either a book or blogs before I finish my day.
Good old fashioned entrepreneurs!
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
I met Viresh during my MBA in MICA in 2013.
A little over 3 years back, Viresh and I founded a brand that fills the need gap of quirky and unique footwear. After 3 years of vehement market study, we launched our current working model, last year.
We have 4 full-time employees on the production and packaging floor and have multiple freelancers and agencies working with us.
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