R&D is Key–samir Dhin­gra

For a com­pany to con­stantly de­liver in­no­va­tive and high-qual­ity prod­ucts to any given in­dus­try, a solid stress on re­search and de­vel­op­ment is manda­tory. Agra-based Aman Shoe Com­pany has this at­ti­tude down to a tee, re­sult­ing in a long run of suc­cess for t

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Es­tab­lished in 90’s with just min­i­mal staff mem­bers, Aman Shoe Com­pany has grown sig­nif­i­cantly over the years and to­day it em­ploys more than 600 peo­ple. It is glob­ally ac­tive and has a rep­u­ta­tion as a young fash­ion brand and mar­ket leader in its cat­e­gory. The S&A Mag­a­zine sat down with SAMIR DHIN­GRA, the MD of Aman Shoes, to dis­cover what the busi­ness is de­liv­er­ing to its cus­tomers — pre­dom­i­nantly in the youth seg­ment.

Mr. Dhin­gra , first up, who is your tar­get con­sumer?

Our tar­get is 18-28-yearolds but as you would ex­pect, our ac­tual con­sumer ranges from 16-year-olds up through 45. We also get se­nior bracket men on so­cial me­dia ask­ing us about com­fort fash­ion wear, so it’s ac­tu­ally very wide-rang­ing. Our be­lief is much more of the mind­set of not dis­re­gard­ing any­one, and mak­ing ev­ery­one feel wel­come within our brand, and that’s a phi­los­o­phy that has been spread through the com­pany.

In­come is some­thing that hap­pens as a by prod­uct of a healthy busi­ness model and a pos­i­tive cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. Hu­man-to­hu­man con­nec­tions are the heart and soul of any busi­ness. You know it that at the end of the day, you’re deal­ing with in­di­vid­u­als — your com­pany is solv­ing com­pli­ca­tions and de­liv­er­ing lovely cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences.

How you have seen the re­tail in­dus­try shift in re­cent years?

The world is in con­tin­u­ous growth, so ev­ery year some­thing changes and some­thing hap­pens. I’m not hun­dred per­cent sure if I agree, but I’ve heard a lot of peo­ple talk about how multi-brand re­tail & dis­tri­bu­tion has had a hard time over the past three to four years, which I think is true. Many folks think it will be more like sin­gle­brand stores in the fu­ture.

Con­sid­er­ing the rentals & re­tail chal­lenges, I am not sure about that be­cause I think it’s like af­ter a few weeks of sun­shine when you have a bit of rain. But cer­tainly, ow­ing to the In­ter­net and the in­for­ma­tion world that we’re liv­ing in, the planet is much smaller now than a few years ago.there’s a lot hap­pen­ing in re­tail at the mo­ment, but it’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. Many new chal­lenges are aris­ing and many good things are com­ing out of it. A typ­i­cal dealer has to now add other ser­vices and other things into their store to make it in­ter­est­ing. It can be pretty lonely be­hind your screen.

The newer gen­er­a­tion is so straight up; they will tell you if they don’t like some­thing (from color to qual­ity) and which is so im­por­tant for a brand to get it right “Our tar­get is 18-28-year-olds but as you would ex­pect, our ac­tual con­sumer ranges from 16-yearolds up through 45.”

“The big­gest chal­lenge with any firm and its move is hav­ing liq­uid cash to do it. We use our own money to grow – there are no bor­row­ings.”

How im­por­tant is right brand­ing?

It’s ex­tremely es­sen­tial. It’s your chance to build the right im­pres­sion, get po­ten­tial clients to take you se­ri­ously and show the world what you’re ca­pa­ble of. Great brand­ing is all about care­fully plan­ning the im­pres­sion you want to cre­ate for a very spe­cific group of cus­tomers and then ex­e­cut­ing that with flair and style. It’s about at­tract­ing the sorts of cus­tomers who re­ally value what you do and will pay what you’re worth. And it’s about cre­at­ing a look for your busi­ness that you can be proud of.

What’s your strat­egy for mak­ing prof­its?

We started with man­u­fac­tur­ing as an OEM and now we are fo­cus­ing on our brand, and have ex­panded slowly to 350 out­lets. We would con­tinue to ex­pand and have a tar­get of cre­at­ing 600 plus deal­ers by 2018. We are com­pletely a man­u­fac­tur­ing and sell busi­ness, which means we pro­duce all the mer­chan­dise, and keep it in our ware­house. We want to be dis­tin­guished in cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

What do you en­joy most about your busi­ness?

My fun­da­men­tal val­ues marry very well with what the com­pany in­volves, so it’s a per­fect match. I started the com­pany 25 years ago, and I be­lieve that’s par­tially be­cause of the unique­ness I wanted to bring in the sec­tor. The busi­ness is pro­pri­etary, so we don’t have share­hold­ers breath­ing down our necks and look­ing at quar­ter-to­quar­ter re­sults. We can think more in the long term and take a longer view of the mar­kets and the busi­nesses we’re en­gag­ing with and ap­ply short-term tac­tics too. The prof­its from the or­ga­ni­za­tion go back into the com­pany, mostly into new tech­nol­ogy devel­op­ments, and I’m an en­thu­si­ast for tech­nol­ogy.

What is the big­gest chal­lenge in busi­ness?

The big­gest chal­lenge with any firm and its move is hav­ing liq­uid cash to do it. We use our own money to grow — there are no bor­row­ings. That is one of our core val­ues. I am ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about the busi­ness. I be­lieve that Aman Shoe’s is a fam­ily com­pany that of­fers a sense of per­ma­nence and con­nec­tion.

Why should cus­tomers come to you when the com­pe­ti­tion is big­ger both by prod­uct range and dis­counts?

Our note to dis­trib­u­tors al­ways has been that we will be dif­fer­en­ti­ated and we will give you pri­or­ity and we will po­si­tion you the way you want to be po­si­tioned. Our sales may not be very large scale com­pared with all the other play­ers but our brand prob­a­bly is very sim­i­lar size in terms of scale of busi­ness. The other brands have, say, 500 deal­ers and we have only 300, but then we are pro­vid­ing a lot more mar­gin and qual­ity to the dealer.

Our tar­get cus­tomer is not the per­son who is look­ing for a dis­count, but some­body who is look­ing for the best fash­ion & value. One of the big­gest pain points in this in­dus­try is on time de­liv­ery & pay­ments and we have a model where we pro­vide mer­chan­dise to you with in seven work­ing days. No­body else does it.

In an age where dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion con­tin­ues to chal­lenge many in­dus­tries, do you feel a lot of pres­sure to keep pace with your cus­tomers?

We in­vest a lot into R&D, much more than other com­pa­nies in the in­dus­try, and we place a strong stress on in­no­va­tion. We are smaller than a lot of our cus­tomers, and I think we ac­tu­ally sur­prise them some­times with our new ap­proaches and new tech­nolo­gies. Usu­ally, we have con­tin­u­ous di­a­logues with our con­sumers to help them un­der­stand the ben­e­fits of the new tech­nolo­gies and show them how they can im­prove their com­pet­i­tive­ness by us­ing our prod­ucts.

It is im­por­tant for us to al­ways be a step ahead when it comes to tech­nol­ogy. It doesn’t just stop at the de­vel­op­ment of a prod­uct, qual­ity is very im­por­tant.

To­day, con­sumers are de­mand­ing more from their prod­ucts and they are not afraid to tell you on so­cial me­dia, how do you han­dle that?

The newer gen­er­a­tions are so straight up; they will tell you if they don’t like some­thing (from color to qual­ity) and which are so im­por­tant for a brand to get it right now. I be­lieve that’s great. So it’s our busi­ness to re­ally get across what the prod­uct looks like and feels like. This in­stant feed back from cus­tomers helps us to learn too, to re­ally un­der­stand what our con­sumers need and what im­prove­ments they would like to see.

What key el­e­ments of BAN­ISH make it stand out among its com­peti­tors?

As we work in a very niche mar­ket; there­fore, the ex­pec­ta­tions of our cus­tomers are ex­tremely high. So our main fo­cus has al­ways been on up­hold­ing a strong brand, us­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate last­ing, high-qual­ity prod­ucts. Now, we are also fo­cus­ing more on how we can em­brace dig­i­tal so­lu­tions in both our cus­tomer in­ter­ac­tions and over­all prod­uct of­fer­ings. To­day, when the cus­tomer buys from BAN­ISH, there’s no com­pro­mis­ing the qual­ity. To live up to high stan­dards I put a lot of em­pha­sis on our peo­ple. We’re also con­stantly seek­ing out qual­ity part­ner­ships with re­search fa­cil­i­ties and com­pa­nies to ex­pand our out­reach and con­tinue to pro­duce the same high qual­ity and in­no­va­tion for our cus­tomers well into the fu­ture, al­ways with our cus­tomers’ com­fort in mind.

What’s next for shoes?

Flex­i­ble soles & Com­fort is still about and in terms of sales our prod­ucts are still per­form­ing strongly. But I also agree that sneak­ers are in big time, peo­ple are look­ing to get com­fort & fash­ion, so lace ups with flexi soles and color are re­ally pop­u­lar now. It’s all about sneak­ers, easy wear, bright col­ors and fresh, and I think we’ll see more of that as we move into the sea­son.

38 ban­ish leader speaks /

Samir Dhin­gra, MD, Aman Shoes

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