Footwear start-ups make rapid inroads in domestic market

June 22, 2018

Krishna Prasain, The Kathmandu Post, 22 June 2018

Start-up footwear companies are making their presence felt in the market in a big way and giving stiff competition to established domestic and international brands by coming up with innovative ideas in tune with the latest fashion trends. Moreover, their products are equally comfortable and affordable.

Dulla, Paila and Dochaa are a few of the starts-up that are attracting footwear lovers, both nationally and internationally.

Dulla was established in 2011. CEO Ahmed Dulla, a passionate footwear designer, said business was good despite the market being dominated by established brands. Dulla’s shoes are manufactured using original leather imported from India and Italy.

Dulla does limited editions. It produces only 100 pairs of one design and retires the model, said Dulla. “We have been receiving huge demand from Australia, the US and the UK markets.”

The company’s annual turnover amounts to Rs20 million. The company offers shoes for all ages. Dulla’s prices range from Rs4,000 to Rs12,000. Its shoes are available in Pokhara too.

Paila is at an infant stage and is gradually becoming popular. Mingma Sherpa, founder of Paila footwear, entered the business after quitting her job in 2016. Sherpa has a passion for designing shoes. She started the business in a single room. Now she has a store at Dhobighat and employs three shoe makers.

“It has been three years since I started Paila. My business is gradually picking up,” she said. Paila footwear is handmade and unique in design. The company uses local raw materials like Allo brought from Sankhuwasabha to make its shoes.

According to Sherpa, demand for footwear is high outside the country, especially in Finland and Czech Republic. Sherpa also exports the company’s products to Australia and Taiwan. However, they are not very popular among Nepalis. “There are a few Nepali customers who visit the Paila footwear store after going through the catalog on social media such as Facebook and Instagram,” she said.

As the shoes are not suitable for use on bad roads since they are handmade, it is difficult to build trust among Nepali customers, she said. The company currently makes shoes for women only, and it plans to launch men’s models too in the future. Paila shoes range in price from Rs2,500 to Rs3,500.

Dochaa, the youngest start-up, entered the business in 2017. Dikesh Prajapati, Watsal Rajbhandary and Amuda Mishra, the three co-founders of Dochaa, thought about opening a footwear business that would reflect native culture at every step and promote Nepali art and culture. Prajapati said that business was picking up.

Dochaa shoes are handmade using local fabrics such as Purbeli and Palpali Dhaka and Newari fabrics from Bhaktapur. However, the soles are imported from China.

The footwear is available in three designs: Bunna Dochaa, Mang Dochaa and Nakha Dochaa. All three designs are priced at Rs2,500 per pair. According to Prajapati, monthly sales total 375 pairs.

The company employs seven workers. Dochaa plans to expand production in the future, Prajapati said, adding that Nepali customers were gradually realizing the essence of handmade products.  Dochaa shoes are also available through online sellers. The company plans to open outlets outside the Kathmandu Valley too.

According to footwear entrepreneurs, it is difficult to find skilled manpower. Due to the limited number of people interested in making handmade shoes, the start-up companies have not been able to produce footwear in large quantities.