Buying designer shoes online in India is passe, now you can choose to design and build your own custom high heels all on the Internet! The folks behind this innovation are Purple Hide, an emerging e-commerce fashion hub for custom-built shoes. We caught up with them for a free-wheeling chat this week, excerpts follow below :
1. Is this your first venture, if not what other business ventures were you involved in?
Yes, this is the first venture that we have started as co-founders. Prior to founding Purplehide.com, each of us was working in different companies.
2. Please tell us about your backgrounds (the founders), are you from a traditional business family?
We are three co-founders. We are all childhood friends from school. Only one of us is from a traditional business family.
Rishabh Singh – I did my B.Tech in Electronics and Communications Engineering from VIT University, Vellore (2008-2012). After that, I did my MBA in Marketing from IIM Indore (2012-2014). After my MBA, I worked with Pidilite Industries in Sales and Marketing. It was during this stint that I got the idea for Purplehide.com and quit my job to start my own venture.
Shubham Gupta – He comes from a traditional business family. His father has a furniture manufacturing plant in Uttar Pradesh. He did his B.Tech in IT from Galgotia University, Noida (2008-2012). After that, he worked with Accenture for 1.5 years. After quitting Accenture, he worked in his father’s business where he learned about operating a manufacturing unit. It was this experience that has helped us in setting up our own footwear-manufacturing unit in Lucknow.
Chinmay Sehgal – Chinmay did his B.Tech in Electronics and Communications Engineering from SRM University, Chennai (2008-2012). After that, he worked in sales for ISGEC, Noida for a year. After working for ISGEC, he worked for his parents’ NGO for children with Down’s syndrome. He then joined us to set up Purplehide.com.
3. How did you get the idea for this venture?
I have a few friends with whom I used to go shopping. Whenever they had to buy shoes, they would visit dozens of stores looking for that perfect shoe that they needed, and even after hours of searching, they would be unable to find any shoe that satisfied them. So that gave me an idea for customized shoes. I looked for solutions to this problem in foreign markets and found that NIKEiD was doing something similar in the US. There were a couple of other companies in the UK and Australia who were customizing shoes online. However, the price was too high for the Indian market.
So we thought that if we could somehow control the manufacturing costs of custom made shoes, we can create something that might work well in India. We are all from Lucknow, which has a lot of SME’s manufacturing footwear. We did our research and realized that we can actually get our costs down to a level where it will appeal to the Indian markets. So we all quit our respective jobs and started working full time to create Purplehide.com.
4. What is the benefit of ordering a shoe online compared to a store visit?
There are two benefits to ordering custom made shoes with us.
One is that the customers do not have to compromise on any feature of their shoes. If they go for a store visit, they might like a shoe but it might not be available in their preferred color. Or they might like a shoe whose heels are too high and they wanted flats. Or they might not want the studs or bows or top. In each of these cases, the customer has to compromise on at least one of their demands.
With Purplehide.com, the customers do not have to compromise at all. They can choose their own styles, their preferred colors, their heel type, and the heel height they want. They can even choose to add or remove any extra items. So they get exactly what they want within minutes on our online designer.
Second is the feeling of wearing unique shoe custom made especially for that customer. For a woman who is particular about the shoes she wears, it is a great feeling to design her own shoes and see them brought to life. The pair would be unique to her and no one else would be able to boast of a similar design. So that experience is something that you won’t get in any retail shop.
5. The biggest bottleneck for designing shoes online is the size, how does one figure out one’s actual size?
Sizing is a challenge for us when we create shoes. However, before manufacturing any shoe we make sure that we have the foot length and the foot width of the customer. There are info-graphics on the website which tells the customer the ways to measure these parameters. So before proceeding with any order, we always contact the customers to ask for their foot length and width. This allows us to create a perfectly sized shoe and also confirm the order from the customer so as to weed out any fake orders.
Once we have the foot length and the foot width, our shoemakers make sure that the size won’t be wrong. We have been doing a good job on that front and we do get the sizes right most of the time.
A bigger challenge for us is to build confidence in our target audience, that they will get what they have designed on our website. There are trust issues, which is normal for any startup. All our marketing activities are designed to create that trust that the shoes will be of high quality and that the customers will get what they designed.
6.What if the customized shoe that you have designed and ordered does not fit? What is your return policy? What do you do with the returned item?
If in case the shoe that we ship doesn’t fit or even if the customer does not like the shoe that they designed and ordered, we have a returns policy. The customers can return their shoes within 15 days from the date of delivery for either a full refund or for another pair with the correct size. This returns policy is important to build trust and confidence in our customers.
If the returned item does not have any manufacturing defect, we store them for lucky size flash sale that we plan to hold 2-3 times a year. Fortunately, we haven’t received a lot of returns until now.
7. What is the current rejection/ return rate in your orders? (In % terms)
As mentioned above we have not received a lot of returns till now. Our return rate is just 7%, which according to us is way below the numbers that we expected at the start of the business.
8. Are the shoes customized using machines or are they handmade?
The shoes are manufactured using a mix of machines and handwork. The designs of the upper are made and cut by hand. The sewing, skiving, and finishing of shoes are done using machines. The lasting or closing of the shoes and sole pasting is done by hand. We have three skilled shoemakers who create the shoes from start to finish. Once we get an order, we can create and deliver the shoes within 10-14 days.
9. How old is Purplehide, how many orders are you currently processing?
We launched Purplehide.com in November 2015. Initially, since we did not do a lot of marketing most of the orders were from our network of friends. We started marketing in January 2016. Currently, we are processing around 25-30 orders a month.
10. Who are your largest competitors in India?
Our shoes are priced between Rs 2000-Rs 4500 depending upon the style and the material used. So any of the shoe brands within the same price range are our competitors. Zara Footwear, Aldo, Forever 21, Catwalk, Inc. 5, Steve Madden, and the rest of branded shoes for ladies are our direct competitors because of their huge brand value.
Our customers always have this decision whether to design their own or to purchase branded shoes. To overcome that, we have to increase the trust and confidence of our customers in our own brand. Once the customers try designing their own shoe and like what they get, we are confident that they will become our customers for a long time.
In the space of customized shoes, there is no other company currently in India. A few others are trying to start up but they have not launched as of now.
11. Where do you see your company in 3 years?
In the short term, we are planning to add more styles, designs, and color options to increase the number of design options for our customers. We are also working on an App for Purplehide to increase customer engagement.
Three years from now, we see ourselves as a major player in the shoe and fashion accessories industry providing customizing options for female and male shoes, handbags, purses, and wallets.
We also see ourselves having an offline store presence in various malls in metros where customers can come in and check our samples and design using the help of our in-store design advisors.