How Modello Domani got a foot in the door in the handcrafted footwear market
Ayush Diwan Khurana, 27, is giving highstreet brands that manufacture products in India and sell them at massive markups a run for their money by following their business model.
If footwear is your thing, especially in quality leather and superlative designs, you would do well to follow 27-year-old Ayush Diwan Khurana. He has successfully backward-integrated a leather factory in Kanpur with his design studio to create his brand Modello Domani, which focuses on high fashion in footwear.
This isn’t new as most retailers would do the same or source from agents who work with factories. But Ayush is working directly with the factory, which manages his orders to the tee.
The idea of Modello Domani was born after Ayush experienced how foreign brands worked in India. He says that most of these brands source from Indian factories and sell the products back to Indians at a 500 percent markup in malls after being imported. So, he decided to turn the tables and use the same factory processes. The result? Handcrafted designs and luxury wear at a very affordable price through Modello Domani’s e-commerce site and large e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Koovs.
Ayush has been dabbling with entrepreneurship since 2010 when he started a dating service called Flirtease. Later, he launched Tagged, a retail store selling high-end brands. While operating as a retailer he realised how international brands positioned themselves and made money from the markup.
In 2014, he began to dabble with the idea of launching his own brand.
“I was discussing with my dad about my own brand of footwear when he took me to a factory that manufactured shoes,” Ayush says.
The beginning of Modello Domani
In late 2014, Ayush travelled to Kanpur and spent the next six months in the factory, learning about the entire leather shoes ecosystem, starting from the sourcing of leather to stitching and the supply chain process. A major learning was that he could keep the prices low and still make a lot of money.
He ordered 50 pairs of men’s shoes and put the photographs on Facebook. He also tagged them at a price and sent the message to his entire network. In a matter of a week, all the shoes were sold.
“I went back to the shoe factory and told them that I would launch the business,” he says.
Modello Domani was set up in January 2015 and went live in May the same year. He bought the domain names domani.in and domanishoes.com and began to retail shoes in May 2015. Till then, Ayush marketed his brand through Facebook.
Ayush chose the name Modello Domani because it meant “The style of tomorrow” in Italian and sounded international. He even embossed an olive branch, which denoted progress. The pricing of his shoes is set at Rs 2,500 per pair and is focused on a bridge to luxury segment.
He realised early on that shoppers demanded a lot from branded products.
“In the first month a customer complained to me that she wanted a box when the shoes were shipped to her. I had to ship the lady a new pair of shoes for free. But I realised that I needed to get every detail right after that,” Ayush says.
In 2015, the company would sell 60 pairs of shoes a month. But by December 2015, Ayush’s fortunes changed. An ecommerce company liked the brand so much that they picked up 650 pairs. Since then, his company has now reached revenue of Rs 1 crore and claims that it will reach Rs 6 crore in revenue by the end of 2018.
The company, which sells western and ethnic footwear for all occasions, has two showrooms in Delhi, which he hopes will add to online sales.
Large opportunity for Indian brands
Over the last 18 months there has been a mushrooming of Indian brands in various products. Ombrelane, Ava, MCaffeine, Wow and Mojo Snacks have all picked up business.
Vikas Lachhwani, co-founder of MCaffeine, says: “India is brand starved and requires household names to emerge.”
There is indeed a big play for brands. Recently Anjana Reddy and Vikram Reddy, co-founders of USPL, a company that owns the brands Wrogn, MsTaken and Imara, raised Rs 100 crore from an international fund to build a large business across India. Currently, USPL has a turnover of Rs 110 crore and expects to close the year at Rs 180 crore.
There is clearly an opportunity to build brands in India. According to EY, the organised apparel and footwear retailing industry is Rs 170,000 crore in size.
So Ayush, who comes from a business family, has done the right thing to strike out on his own to follow a dream. Hopefully he will be styling the feet of the rich and famous soon.