Harshwardhan Patwardhan, always wanted to get into an entrepreneurial venture, but it took him time to realise that the idea was always walking with him, rather providing support to his feet —his Kolhapuri sandals. This gave way to Chappers in 2014, specially designed sandals with a contemporary touch.
“I was so passionate about the chappals and I even wore them when I went to study in UK. It is a piece of art! After I came back, I worked with my father in his transportation business but I wanted to do something on my own. I decided to take my passion forward and empower the people of Kolhapur,” explains Patwardhan. He travelled to Kolhapur and got samples made, but the designs were always common ones. “I wanted to make comfortable shoes that would also be trendy. Greek sandals are so famous, then why can’t we take Kolhapuri chappals to the rest of the world?”
Once Patwardhan decided to focus on quality, he arranged for softer leather and better material. The designs were now in different colours and patterns, which made them unique. In a day, the craftsmen produce around 35 pairs. Patwardhan wants to keep this limited and niche.
There are a number of challenges that every new venture or project faces. Patwardhan discusses the obstacles he faced while setting up Chappers.
“The workers in Kolhapur never took me seriously because they thought that I was some kid,” says the 25-year-old entrepreneur. He had asked the craftsmen in Kolhapur to make him a few samples, but they were used to making a 100 pairs of chappals at a time. His aim was to create a brand of these sandals, “Kolhapuri chappals have a bad reputation because it is considered as the roadside footwear. But I wanted to make it into a luxury brand that people can wear and be comfortable in.”
The keys thing he keeps in mind is to never compromise on the brand. This is one of the reasons why Patwardhan refuses to lower the prices of the sandals.
A sandal bought from Chappers will range between Rs 2100 to Rs 3500. But why would anyone pay so much for a pair of chappals?
To this important question, Patwardhan responds, “We pay our craftsmen double the wages that they normally receive. Aside from this, I also import quality leather from China which is costly. The chappals are very comfortable but they are also very sturdy. Also, I cannot make this a brand if I reduce the prices.”
The entrepreneur’s vision is to turn this into a global brand and take it internationally. The sandals are sold on online retail sites both in India and abroad. “As Indians, I don’t think we take enough pride in our own products. I want to change that. I want to prove to the world that Indian products have quality and style.”
Since the initial setup of Chappers is now done, Patwardhan also launched another brand under Chappers called Coblers. This is a range of custom-made and designed formal leather shoes for men.
Advice to budding entrepreneurs in Pune
“Don’t think too much about what will happen! Follow your passion and not what is customary like engineering, commerce, etc. Your passion will take you forward and the money will follow.”
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