German shoe-care firm Melvo plans to buy out partner to float unit

German shoe-care company Melvo GmbH has decided to buy out the 49 per cent stake in its local joint venture partner Vacouro Leather to float a wholly owned subsidiary in India.

Melvo is taking advantage of the recently changed foreign direct investment laws which allow 100 per cent ownership by single brands. It has been present in India since 2009 through MV Shoe care Ltd with brands such as Woly and Salamander at the premium end of the market.
Speaking to Business Line, Mr Christoph Hirshmann, Managing Director, said, “We have decided to buy out the Indian JV partner and have a 100 per cent subsidiary as India is a priority market for us. After reaching a critical mass, we also intend setting up local manufacturing in the country.”

Melvo is exploring a new manufacturing base near a port-based destination in either Gujarat or South India. It expects India to serve as a hub for supplying to countries in the Far East and China.

Lining up investments to the tune of almost Rs 70 crore in the next three to five years, Melvo intends to extend its range of products and even setting up stores under its brand of Woly, which will have service-oriented offerings like cleaning, refreshing and protecting shoes.

Targeting places with high footfalls such as cinemas, hotels, airports and railway stations, Woly products and services will be targeted at upmarket urban consumers.
urrently, Melvo's shoe-care brands are available at nearly 1,200 outlets, including modern retail formats like Reliance Footprint and Lifestyle.

“All these years we have been trying to understand the Indian market. We would be happy to set up at least 200 Woly stores which would also serve as experience zones in places like the Mumbai airport, in the next 2-3 years,” added Mr Hirshmann.

With nearly 75 shoe-care products (like leather polishes, high-end brushes and insoles, and so on) pegged between Rs 150 and Rs 795, Melvo currently straddles the premium end of the market but continues to compete against mass brands such as Cherry Blossom and Kiwi shoe polish in the Rs 120-crore shoe-care market.

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