How Nayantara Sood's shoe label 'Taramay' is changing the notion about Indian luxury brands

A luxury brand in Indian footwear is almost unheard of, thanks to a surfeit of global names and the suspicion with which local brands are viewed. Despite this 31-year-old Nayantara Sood is determined to succeed with Taramay, her Indian shoe label. Registered in December 2009, but launched the following year, Taramay designs chic formal and casual footwear. "It is a luxury brand with global design identities, yet Indian in make," says Sood.

However, becoming a shoe designer was never on the cards. "I did not wake up one morning and decide I wanted to design shoes, though I knew it had to be something in design," says the former media professional. After graduating from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi, in 2002, she joined NDTV as a news producer. Three years later, she made her way to the UK to pursue a year-long master's programme in brand strategy from the University of London, and then worked in the city for a couple of years. Finally, in 2008, the idea of becoming India's Jimmy Choo took hold.

"People told me to take up clothes instead, but I didn't find anyone who could help me with shoe design," she says. To train herself in this new field, she joined the London College of Fashion in 2008 and returned to India the following year. However, she did not rush headlong into playing entrepreneur. Her first project was in collaboration with designer Ritu Kumar, designing shoes for the Wills India Fashion Week in 2009. Subsequently, she joined hands with designers like Arjun Saluja and Alpana & Neeraj for catwalk shows. It was only after learning the ropes and going through the nerve-wracking experience of meeting strict deadlines that she was ready to be her own boss.

In January 2010, Sood ploughed in Rs 2 lakh from her savings to start work on her first shoe collection under her own label. To begin with, she travelled to the leather hubs-Chennai, Kanpur and Agra-and found three craftsmen to work with. She did not invest in setting up a workshop or a factory, spending the money on making samples, brand logo and packaging. By December 2010, she was ready with her first collection, Parisienen Chic, and bagged her first big break with Ensemble in south Mumbai. "I sent them photographs of the shoes and when I went to meet them with my samples, their merchandising director and staff tried on my shoes, and were hooked," she recalls.

Today, Taramay is stocked in upmarket boutiques across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Sood also sells through Pernia's Pop-up Shop, an e-commerce portal known for its luxury inventory. The prices start at Rs 4,500 for sandals and thong slippers and go up to Rs 7,500 for ballerinas. On an average, she makes a profit of 30% on each pair, but there are more than enough takers. Her turnover in the first year was Rs 6 lakh.

Inspired by the success of her debut collection, Sood came out with a second collection in April 2011 by investing Rs 5 lakh, which came from the profits and her savings. Though she recovered the entire investment, she is yet to start drawing a salary. In April this year, she launched yet another collection with an investment of Rs 10 lakh. A part of this went into setting up the official website, which went live earlier this month. Now, she also has her own design studio at Nizamuddin, Delhi, manned by a staff of four, one accountant and three marketing people.

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