Bata shoes and slippers are very popular in India, they are cheap and strong. This is the reason why Bata is most prevalent among middle-class families. Many people think that Bata is an Indian company. But, if you think so, then you are wrong. Baťa shoe company was established in 1894 in Zlín, Moravia by a group of shoemakers.
Bata entered the Indian market in 1931, in Kolkata. Bata footwear became so popular that a neighbourhood in Kolkata came to be known as Batanagar. The company also designed products meant especially for the Indian market.
Bata is surprisingly the favourite footwear brand of every Indian family. It is the largest retailer and leading manufacturer of footwear in India. Bata has an amazing shoe collection, quite comfortable and cost effective which makes Bata sound too indigenous and humble to be a foreign brand.
Bata operates in more than 70 countries and has 35,000 employees. In India, Bata sells about 50 million pairs every year and serves 120,000-plus customers every day. The shoemaker, which currently has around 1,500 stores across India, plans to add 500 outlets by 2023 to strengthen its network in semi-urban and rural markets.
Bata India belongs to the MNC Bata Shoe Organisation (BSO) a family business headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland. Bata India Limited is the largest company for the BSO. It has close to 1500 stores across India and is also the second highest revenue earner for the parent company.
Until the 1930s, shoes for the British troops were mostly imported from Japan. When Bata started manufacturing in Eastern India, the demand was overwhelming. In 1939, Batanagar employed 4000 persons; and Bata opened 86 retail outlets selling 3500 pairs of shoes per week. From 1940, the business had started to flourish.
In an interview with The Print, Bata India’s brand strategist — Harish Bijoor, had stated that the company designs shoes that are suitable for the Indian feet and climate conditions, which is what makes them popular.
It was in this factory that the iconic, tennis shoes were first designed and manufactured. The shoe was a very simple design made of white canvas. In an interview with Urban Eye, Charles Pignal, the fourth-generation owner of the company said that shoe’s design was manufactured even in Europe, and many customers were unaware of its Indian origin. He says, “It is always a great story to tell.”
Those who grew up in India in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s would have worn these at one point or another because tennis shoes were also school shoes.
In the 1980s, when Bata faced stiff competition from competitors like Khadims and Paragon it kept itself at the top of the market by going on an advertisement spree. Apart from highlighting their utility, durability, and affordability, the company also introduced catchy taglines.
Their first-ever tagline was — “Beware of tetanus, even a small injury could be dangerous – so wear a shoe”, to raise awareness among the Indian subcontinent, which was earlier not accustomed to wearing shoes altogether. Another well-known tagline is “First to Bata, Then to School”.
According to Harish Bijoor, another reason for Indians to love this brand is that the name has only four letters and two syllables. He said, “Bata’s small name worked in the favor of the Indian brand and helped the company shed its international image.”
Today, India is the second-largest producer and consumer of shoes in the world and Bata, headquartered in Switzerland, remains one of the leading brands to offer comfortable yet stylish footwear at affordable prices.