Harshwardhan Patwardhan, founder of Chappers, a young shoe brand


Interview: Harshwardhan Patwardhan, founder of Chappers, a young shoe brand

Chappers is a bespoke footwear brand founded by Harshwardhan Patwardhan. The brand was born when Harshwardhan needed to revive Kolhapuri chappals beyond Maharashtra.

Finding a formidable response, Harshwardhan decided to offer more; he decided to add colors and new styles to men’s shoes.

The brand has been accepted by celebrities such as Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Nitin Gadkari, etc. Now, the brand has made shoe customization even easier using AI. One can either go to their website or any kiosk in the malls in Pune or their outlets in Pune.

In an exclusive interview with Harshwardhan Patwardhan, founder of Chappers, a young shoe brand explains how he started his entrepreneurial journey.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: I am Harshwardhan Patwardhan, a business management graduate from Nottingham, UK. Chappers is the first business I started after returning to India.

My family has a thriving transportation business, but my heart was obsessed with starting my own. This is how my entrepreneurial adventure began.

Tell us a bit about your entrepreneurial journey.

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: I have always been a big fan of Kolhapuri chappals and wore them while studying abroad.

It was quite surprising to see that my shoes got a lot of attention and appreciation from people.

This made me consider the idea of ​​starting a business that could redefine conventional Kolhapuris into a contemporary and global product.

After trying my hand at my family’s transport business, I decided to pursue my idea and started the first research.

I used to travel alone to Kolhapur to understand the manufacturing process, find leather makers in Dharavi and hold meetings with them.

After trying my hand at my family’s transport business, I decided to pursue my idea and started the first research.

The first product prototypes were extensively tested in various weather conditions and heavy rain.

Once convinced of the quality of the product, I decided to formalize the brand by naming it Chappers. The name is a modern combination of Indian chappals with contemporary moccasins.

It defines the vision we have created for handcrafted Indian chappals that are as comfortable and stylish as flip flops.

We started our product marketing and sales efforts by setting up a small booth in a popular mall and only a few hundred pairs of shoes.

Buyer response has been phenomenal, which has convinced us to take risks and grow rapidly. Since then, we have undertaken many technological innovations and product variations that have consistently helped Chappers grow its customer base.

The startup, just an idea, has become one of the fastest growing fashion startups in India today, and we are witnessing an ever-increasing demand for our products. We are now in several stores in malls and retail through our online portal.

What service(s) or product(s) do you offer?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: We offer custom-made shoes using the technology interface. We started by offering a range of men’s shoes, and now we also offer women’s shoes.

What makes your label brand unique?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: Chappers is unlike any other shoe brand in India. We have reinvented Kolhapuri chappals by integrating the handcrafted quality of footwear with a modern aesthetic in color, material and style to create what we proudly call Handcrafted Indian Sandals.

Chappers’ core USP is that we give our customers complete freedom to choose what they want from their shoes.

They can design their custom sandals using advanced AR technology available at all Chappers outlets. We give them the choice of color, design elements and material options to create custom shoes and even the ability to add their initials or other accessories to the products.

The customized product is delivered to customers across India within two working days, and the price is right if we compare it to designer and branded shoes.

What made you choose this type of business?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: I have had a passion for Kolhapuri shoes since my early years and even wore them when I went to study business management in Nottingham.

What amazed me was how people liked the shoes and became interested in them. It made me realize the huge untapped opportunity presented by a customizable and contemporary redesign of Kolhapuri’s chappals.

I also realized that it wasn’t my heart to join my family’s transportation business, so I decided to start a revolutionary shoe brand.

What was your mission at the start?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: My mission is to make Indian handcrafted shoes a global favorite by taking advantage of artistic diversity, quality and comfort factors and adding contemporary style.

How many employees in your organization?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: The total strength of our team is 15 employees.

What are the objectives of your enterprise ?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: Our goal is to rapidly grow Chappers’ retail store network and, over the next several years, establish a presence in every mall nationwide through our low inventory kiosk in mall strategy.

We also receive international orders and our long term goals include selling Chappers overseas.

We also aim to take conventional Kolhapuri beyond color or gender boundaries and make shoes for men, women and children.

Chappers Kiosk

What were some of your failures and what did you learn from them?

  • We tried to scale personalization without resorting to technology. We expected people to imagine what their custom chappal/shoes would look like and order them at a high price. We realized later that people were willing to pay a high price if they knew precisely what their chappal/shoe would look like. Now we have created India’s first Virtual Shoe Customizer in which people can customize their chappal/shoe on a touch screen through Augmented Reality. This way they are more comfortable ordering shoes.
  • We launched our products at high prices and gradually lowered the prices as we sorted out our manufactures. This led to fewer people buying the product at first, which would negate the impact of good design. Today, we launch our products at the right price and keep them constant. We also offer limited edition collections to keep our design language fresh and vibrant.
  • We started to stray too far from our main product. Our flagship product is the kolhapuri chappal. We call them “Kohls”. We started making all kinds of things like mules, dress shoes, sneakers, etc. Now we have a tight collection with 70% chappals and 30% leftovers. We know what we are good at. We are good at making chappals. We make the best kolhapuris. We are also good at making Pathani sandals and loafers.

What was the inspiration behind becoming an entrepreneur?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: I come from a family of entrepreneurs and have a successful transportation business.

Therefore, I had an entrepreneurial streak in my genes even during my years in the UK for my business management studies.

The only thing I could decide was whether I wanted to continue with my family business or start my own business. Eventually, I chose the latter option and started my entrepreneurial journey with Chappers.

Key things to consider before starting a startup?

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: There are some things that every startup founder should think carefully about before launching their business. These include:

  1. Have the right understanding of the client’s pain point and how it can be resolved
  2. Knowing that there is a problem or unmet demand on a scale that can be converted into a sustainable business opportunity
  3. Have the right technological and financial resources and knowledge to establish and manage the business
  4. Willingness to dedicate enough time to innovation without any pressure to rush through the go-to-market phase

Your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs

Harshwardhan Patwardhan: Becoming a startup founder is tough, especially if you’re balancing your business ambitions with financial challenges like finding the funds to get started.

Second, there are times when things would go slow and there would be no results to show, especially in the early stages.

This is where a person’s commitment is put to the test, as little or no income can occur in the first two years, and you would only have to invest in product development, research , innovation and the search for the right talent. If you’re determined to sweat it out and have a clear view of what you’re doing, then go for it.

Website: https://chappers.in

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