Flip-flop maker Paragon decides to step up footwear presence with sportswear

For years, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had used the rubber chappal to send a message across that she was that person next door.

But for Paragon, the 39-year old family-owned brand from Kerala, which actually popularised branded rubber chappals in India, this product segment is no more a significant growth driver. The ₹1,400-crore footwear maker is instead moving towards trendier products such as sports shoes and non-leather formal footwear, before finally stepping into the larger leather footwear market.

“Our entry into the leather segment will take another two to three years. In the meantime, we will be coming out with more fashionable products, including sports wear, safety shoes and non-leather formals,” says Navin Thomas, Executive Director (Marketing).

Navin is now part of the second generation of the Thomas family that is trying to broaden the footprint of the essentially hawai chappal maker in the growing footwear market, besides giving the company that much needed retail push.

It has about 75 manufacturing units, including outsourced ones, producing 12 crore pairs annually. “Rubber slippers will however remain in our portfolio. The chappal will continue to have its place in the footwear industry, though its use is largely limited to indoors or at best to the neighbouring grocery store,” Thoman Mani, Executive Director, told Business Line.

Retail push
The Thomas cousins were in Hyderabad to unveil a new range of fashionable Solea brand, with actor Samantha as the new brand ambassador.

The second generation Thomas family is planning to give the brand a retail push. “We will be opening our first few retail stores in the south this year and expand to 15 or 20 by next year. Each store will require an investment of about ₹50 lakh,” he said.

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