Devika Bapna’s vegan footwear venture was set up two years ago to make a difference. Today, KANABIS readies itself to take on a $1 billion opportunity
In India, it is illegal to kill healthy young cattle; but that provides only limited protection - they are often beaten, and deprived of food and water. They are transported in appalling conditions and tortured with iron rods. It ached Devika Srimal Bapna’s heart when she learned how leather is made. As an animal lover and PETA volunteer, she gave up leather a few years ago.
However, during her transition to a more conscionable lifestyle, Devika found it almost impossible to find stylish yet affordable non-leather shoes. The options available were either very expensive or of inferior quality.
According to Devika, "We either have the non-Indian players, which are expensive and mostly do leather shoes, or the unorganised/unbranded segment, where quality, price and make are questionable.”
She noticed the unstructured nature of the footwear industry in India, and an entrepreneurial itch finally led her to take the plunge, with an aim of starting her own brand. And thus, KANABIS was born.
Devika is a Chartered Accountant, and she started her career at a Big Four accounting firm in London. In the backdrop of such a lucrative, promising career, quitting to sell shoes was a courageous decision, to say the least!
She further added, "Moving from London to Delhi, from finance to fashion, from a big corporate to a startup, life took an 180-degree turn! But I am a go-getter. Building a team, running a company, and learning to sell, promote and market a consumer brand has been exciting, challenging and rife with learnings."
The five-member team at KANABIS makes fashionable and PETA-approved vegan footwear for women. Their products are made of high-quality canvas, fabric, jute and other leather substitutes, keeping compassion for animals as a core value of the business. Each shoe also has a quirky name that tells a story about it.
The company was founded in October 2014, and they were in the market by April 2015.
On being questioned as to the origin of the company’s unorthodox name, Devika says, "Historically, the canvas was made from hemp, which came from the cannabis plant. Ith is a play on the word Cannabis (aka Marijuana) and lends itself well to our canvas products."
To the animal lovers out there, KANABIS core values cannot be ignored. Their products, crafted keeping in mind the sanctity of animal life, on average, range in price from Rs 2,500 to Rs 2,800 (roughly 40-50 percent cheaper than incumbents considering the competent quality). They are available online at leading marketplaces and offline at eight multi-brand stores across the country. They manage their inventories at a warehouse in New Delhi and use a logistics company for deliveries.
Their revenue in their first year of operations was approximately Rs 40 lakh, and they are projecting over Rs 1 crore in revenues over the next two years.
It is currently bootstrapped, having raised seed funding from friends and family. They also carried out a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and collected $4,000, which was a very useful early investment in the business.
The estimated size of the footwear market is about Rs 22,000 crore ($3.5 billion). The company’s focus is on disrupting the unbranded market, which makes up about 70 percent of the whole (~$2.5 billion), of which the women’s category is 41 percent. This gives team them a substantial market to target, one valued at over $1billion.
The potential is more than evident, and their commitment to a more humane lifestyle is admirable. As we tread towards the future, companies like KANABIS give us something to hope for.