Footwear startup D’Vano gaining traction in India

D'VANO, a startup that sells footwear with invisible heels for men, is finding a growing market in India, clocking monthly Rs 50 lakh. It plans to introduce sales of offerings for women in the next few months and go global by the end of the year.

Co-founded by actor Ajay Ramkrishna and his friend Prashanth S Devan, D'VANO went commercial last November. Its shoes are designed to increase height by 2-3.5 inches, with invisible elevation fitted between the inner and outer soles.

Indian males are on average shorter than their Caucasian counterparts. Devan, 45, experienced this firsthand when he interacted with people taller than him during business trips to Europe and Central Asia. This shortcoming, so to speak, sparked off a business idea.

Inspired by Italian designs, D'VANO creates and sells formal, casual and sports shoes and sandals through its portal and on ecommerce sites Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon and ShopClues.

"The product has a certain psychology to it -it has to be visible and at the same time invisible.That's why we are selling online so people can order from the privacy of their homes," said Devan.

These products can do well considering that over the past few years, there have been many grooming and vanity products for men, according to Arvind Singhal, chairman of Technopak Advisors, a market research firm.

"These categories are used by both middleand upper-middle class men in India to look more attractive. Height is something that Indian men can do with a few more inches," said Singhal. The shoes are made by contract manufacturers in the Far East, Thailand and India. The company uses poromeric leather. Ethik, another Bengaluru-based footwear company , is also positioned as an animal crueltyfree brand. "Our average customer is between 18 and 45 years. Interestingly, 32% of men's shoe buyers are women who shop for their significant other," Devan said. Top selling cities, he said, are Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, with customers also from some Tier 2 and 3 towns. "Specialty shoes comprise height-increasing, safety shoes and ortho shoes. The sub-category has seen high growth from the time it was launched and has grown by 10 times in the past one year," said a spokesperson from online marketplace Snapdeal.

While the concept is popular overseas, in India elevated shoes have primarily been used within the film fraternity. "Creating awareness on the product is where our challenge lies," Devan said.

The company expects to open threefour digital showrooms in the city starting mid-August this year before it moves to Mumbai, Delhi and on to tier 2 and 3 towns. These showrooms will be experience zones for customers, showcasing all styles, models and sizes of shoes. Customers will have to place orders online and pay cash on delivery.

"We will be able to manage stock and control cash flow as we won't need a large space to stock inventory ," said Devan. D'VANO is extending this concept to women's footwear with a range of slip-ons, sandals and sports shoes in August. By the end of this year, it plans to go overseas to the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe.

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