Agra-based Metro and Metro Shoes ventures into women’s footwear market

Metro and Metro Shoes has carved a niche for itself in the men’s footwear market. And now, the brand’s spotlight is on its recently launched women’s footwear segment.

Started in 1972 by Dwarka Nath Kalsi, the Agra-based shoe manufacturer specializes in formal shoes, boots, flip flops, sneakers, etc.

Globally, the company exports to leading shoe giants like Hush Puppies, Clark’s, Deichmann, and more, in countries, including the US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, and Sweden, among others.

In the last decade, Metro and Metro Shoes entered the domestic market and launched an online marketplace with its brand, Overdrive.

Now, you can ask what took so long for this five-decade-old company to enter the women’s footwear segment?

Meenakshi Kalsi, Managing Partner, Metro and Metro Shoes, tells SMBStory,

“There are many intricacies in women’s footwear—different sets of rules when it comes to production, and the market is very different too. There are formal, comfort, heels, wedges, etc., in women’s footwear.”

Helping her in this journey is Meenakshi’s elder daughter Arushi Kalsi. The third-generation prodigy showed an inclination towards the family business while she was studying.

In 2015 after her graduation, she went on to study the tips and tricks of shoe-making at Deutsche Schuhfachschule. The Germany-based institution specialises in shoe-making and engineering.

“My husband Ajit wanted to ensure that she wasn’t as unprepared as I was before she joined us,” Meenakshi says. Today, Meenakshi says she is confident enough to single-handedly take on the women’s footwear business, along with her elder daughter Arushi.

The women’s footwear segment

Metro and Metro Shoes decided to venture into this segment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. After thorough market research, the company decided to focus on the comfort shoe segment.

According to Invest India, the Indian footwear industry that houses brands, including Woodland, Metro Shoes, Relaxo, Bata, and more, is estimated to reach $15.5 billion by the end of 2022.

Moreover, the country accounts for the second-largest producer of footwear globally and the fifth largest exporter of leather goods.

Metro and Metro Shoes worked towards clinching the right product with its designers from India, Italy, and other places, who have been with the company for 15-20 years.

With one manufacturing unit in Agra and about 10 assembly lines, the company will dedicate a few of those to making women’s footwear.

At present, Metro and Metro Shoes manufactures 1,000 men’s shoes every day. While the number of women’s shoes manufactured is low, it plans to take it up to about 1,500 in the coming months.

The women’s footwear segment will contribute about 10-15% to the overall revenue of the company, Meenakshi says.

The shoe story

At present, Metro and Metro Shoes is led by Meenakshi’s husband, Ajit Nath Kalsi, who joined the business in 1991.

Formerly known as Leatherfact, the company changed its name after the disintegration of the USSR—the brand’s sole customer at the time.

The business suffered from the unfavourable conditions in the Soviet Union, and Ajit started building the brand from scratch post-1991.

In 1993, after Meenakshi and Ajit got married, she started looking at the business operations. However, by the mid-2000s, she saw the need to step into the production side, too, as Dwarka and Ajit would be away on business trips for as long as a month.

New to the business, Meenakshi got help from a Russian gentleman (who worked with the Kalsis) to understand the art of shoe-making from the grassroots level.

In fact, Arushi also launched Overdrive—Metro and Metro Shoes’ B2C (business-to-customer) vertical—in 2018. Overdrive is a leather footwear brand that sells men’s footwear, including formals, loafers, casual, party wear, and more. It also sells accessories like socks, shoe care kits, leather bands, etc.

Today, about 80% of the company’s revenue comes from its B2B (business-to-business) segment, and the rest from its retail brand, mainly tilted towards Amazon, Flipkart, and its website.

In FY20, the company clocked Rs 151 crore.

Prod Meenakshi on what’s next, and if they plan to establish an offline presence, she says, “It is definitely on the cards,” adding the company’s shoes will be on some multi-brand outlets in the coming months.

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