Footwear major Woodland, a flagship brand of the Aero Group, is looking east, as it considers eastern India, including the Northeast, an important market. It is planning to open 20 exclusive stores in the region by the end of the next fiscal.
Saurav Bora of The Telegraph talks to the managing director of the company.
Excerpts from the interview
The Telegraph: What is the share of Woodland in the country’s footwear market?
Harkirat Singh: According to the recent study of Assocham, the size of the Indian footwear industry is over Rs 22,000 crore, of which Woodland, as a market leader in outdoor adventure, specialised footwear, holds a market share of some 35 per cent.
TT: What is the USP of a Woodland product – shoes, apparel and accessories?
HS: Woodland is an outdoor adventure brand, known for its rugged and tough products. This is what every Woodland product carries, across categories, and our constant endeavour is to strengthen this value proposition across our existing and upcoming products.
In addition to quality, every Woodland product is developed under the umbrella of its corporate philosophy of being a ProPlanet brand. “ProPlanet” happens to be our CSR initiative, too, wherein we focus on environment sustenance and thus, most of our products are made of eco-friendly products using eco-friendly processes.
TT: How many production units/plants do you have in the country and where?
HS: With our corporate base in New Delhi, our production units are dominantly present in northern India. We have 15 specialised footwear manufacturing plants; evenly spread across the industrial belts of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
TT: Do you have an advantage selling your shoes and gear in Northeast India, which is known for its hills and rugged terrain?
HS: Woodland products are synonymous with adventurers. Though we are a strong brand present across the country, our specialised adventure footwear does get us in demand and thus, a selling advantage in hilly regions and rugged terrain. Northeast India is certainly a big market for us and we are strengthening our base further in the region.
TT: What is your market share in the Northeast? How many stores do you have in the country and of them how many are in the Northeast?
HS: Currently, Woodland has a network of over 380 exclusive stores spread across the country along with a wide presence through over 4,000 retailers that sell Woodland products. Our presence in eastern India would be over 25 exclusive stores, evenly spread across the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam. We will be adding another 20 stores in the region by the next financial year.
In addition to the exclusive Woodland stores, our products are easily available through multi-brand retail outlets and e-commerce portals.
TT: How important is a city like Guwahati or Shillong to you?
HS: Guwahati as well as Shillong are certainly important markets. Currently, we have two stores in Guwahati and one in Shillong and we will be adding another three stores in the Northeast very soon.
TT: Do you have any investment plans in future, like setting up exclusive stores or a production unit, in the Northeast?
HS: With our market set to grow in a quick pace with addition to the categories as well as variety to our current offerings, Woodland has plans to almost double its manufacturing capacity in the next three years and will be inviting investment of some Rs 500 crore.
Our current manufacturing capacity in footwear is 4.5 to 5 million pieces through 15 units, while in apparels it is around 2.5 to 3 million through five units. Our overseas manufacturing facility in Bangladesh is still at a nascent stage.
TT: Who are your competitors? Any new products/segments in the pipeline?
H.S.: We are the pioneering leader in the outdoor adventure sports in the country with negligible competition though we can’t ignore the fact that our customers even use our products for common wear because of the comfort they entail and thus, we do have competition with other brands present in the market.
We have a wide team of designers spread across the globe. With their help, we are constantly adding newer styles/collections to our stores in frequency of a fortnight or even shorter timelines. We have aggressively forayed into formal wear under our sub-brand, “Woods”.
TT: What is the current turnover of the company? How much do footwear contribute to it?
HS: We closed last year with an annual turnover of over Rs 700 crore. Both our product lines (footwear and apparel) are growing steadily and have a 50:50 share among the product sales.
TT: What growth target have you set for 2013-14? Any targets in regard to market share in Northeast?
HS: As far as our business plans are concerned, we are in the process of adding 60 more stores to our network of over 350 stores within this financial year (2012-2013). Almost 80 per cent of these are operational now and the rest are in process. We are in the process of adding more specialised outdoor products and you will hear details on the same as soon as the plans firm up.
During the current financial year, we are aiming to touch a turnover over Rs 800 crore, posting an almost 15 per cent growth with an aggressive growth plan of touching Rs 1,000 crore by March 2014.
As mentioned earlier, eastern India will see the addition of another 20 stores by the next financial year, including five to seven stores typically in the Northeast.