Former Nike executives founded D2C firm Plaeto, which offers children’s shoes. The startup has tied up with over 30 schools in Bangalore and Chennai.
Children should be able to stand on their own, yet the black lace-ups that are purchased every summer during back-to-school shopping receive little consideration from parents or instructors.
Because kids’ feet keep growing, it is typically best to buy a pair a few sizes larger, according to Ravi Kallayi, co-founder and CEO of D2C shoe firm Plaeto. But would they be content to spend six hours a day, every day, in their position?
The query launched a search that resulted in Ravi founding Plaeto, a children’s shoe company, in 2020 with Sara Kilgore and Pavan Kareti, two of his former coworkers and friends from Portland, Oregon, sports shoe giant Nike. Between 2012 and 2013, Ravi, who has an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, served as the program director for Nike’s African business.
Together with his co-founders, he developed the designs and manufacturing process for their initial shoe model. The group began creating a few exclusive models, focusing on kids’ “constantly expanding feet.”
Children’s feet develop throughout time. Moreover, it is common for parents to purchase larger shoes. But because the foot location is incorrect when walking, Ravi claims that the method is poor and could eventually harm feet.
The 12-person team interviewed roughly 100 parents while interviewing more than 500 children in India for their research. In collaboration with FindMeaShoe, Plaeto worked with material and engineering scientists from India, Italy, and Taiwan to develop FitSystem, which employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to suggest the most appropriate shoes for every kid.
Their product line includes a Fitliner, which is a kind of insole that children may peel off as their feet grow to add a half size and extend the device’s use life by two to six months.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s delays in purchasing, manufacturing, distribution, and other procedures, these items were introduced in the middle of 2021. Finding independent manufacturers was also difficult for the company because their requirements were different from those of conventional shoes. Currently, Coimbatore is where the items are made.
Sales were minimal because there were no classes because of the lockdown at the schools. In order to raise awareness about the value of children wearing nice shoes, Ravi and his team decided to take advantage of the opportunity to contact parents and schools. They therefore began holding workshops. As students wear these shoes for six to eight hours a day, we had to convince many schools of the value of high-quality school shoes, he adds. The team got a foot in the door when a few schools authorized the startup to put up stalls on their property.
Plaeto started off by partnering with schools to market. Although it currently sells through online marketplaces like Myntra, Amazon, and Flipkart, roughly 15-20% of sales still come from the direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel.
The remainder of their sales come via partnerships with schools. By the end of FY23, the business hopes to have partnerships with at least 100 schools after forming relationships with around 30–40 schools in Bengaluru and Chennai.
Cricketer Rahul Dravid was approached by the D2C brand to serve as their brand ambassador, but he ended up joining the company as an advisor. The former captain of the Indian cricket team is not a shareholder in the business.
The path forward
According to industry projections, the Indian children’s footwear market would develop at a 7.7% CAGR to reach 131.1 billion rupees by 2025. . Currently, among other children’s footwear companies, Plaeto competes with Liberty, Bata, and Nike.
The business plans to concentrate on metro areas in the future and has Hyderabad, Delhi, and Mumbai on its radar. Additionally, Tier II and Tier III cities are showing demand to the company.
The company plans to increase its D2C clientele by the end of 2022 so that 50% of its sales come from digital channels. Although it currently sells through online marketplaces like Myntra, Amazon, and Flipkart, roughly 15-20% of sales still come from the direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel. The remainder of their sales come via partnerships with schools.
By the end of FY23, the business hopes to have partnerships with at least 100 schools after forming relationships with around 30–40 schools in Bengaluru and Chennai. Cricketer Rahul Dravid was approached by the D2C brand to serve as their brand ambassador, but he ended up joining the company as an advisor.