The introduction of Augmented Reality (AR) is proving to be revolutionary for the Indian footwear industry, removing all obstacles to a perfect pair of shoes.
Indian men take their footwear quite seriously. However, for the longest time now, restrictions such as colour and fit hinder consumers from getting that ultimate pair. Getting bespoke shoes made as per personal colour and design preferences can be quite expensive and time consuming.
Enter AR. Like other fashion sectors such as garments and beauty, the footwear industry has started leveraging this new tech to offer bespoke footwear for the tech savvy consumer.
The Tech Panda spoke to Harshwardhan Patwardhan, Founder of Chappers, about how the footwear industry is using AR technology to appeal to the modern consumer. Chappers is a bespoke footwear brand, providing good-quality custom footwear to men, at the right price through its virtual customisation software.
For us, using AR is of great importance as it enables the visualisation and validation of design before it is manufactured. The customer gets to visualise their products virtually, giving them an easy understanding of the outcome
“As one of the largest manufacturing industries in the world, the Indian footwear sector is witnessing a lot of tech integration. We at Chappers are using AR as a technology for better customer interface,” he explains.
“For us, using AR is of great importance as it enables the visualisation and validation of design before it is manufactured. The customer gets to visualise their products virtually, giving them an easy understanding of the outcome,” he adds.
Globally high-end luxury footwear brands use AI, AR, and VR, making the product processes simpler, streamlined, and more customer friendly. But in India, apart from luxury brands, not many brands are using these technologies as brands are still unclear if they want to use such technologies.
AR for Scalability in the Footwear Industry
Then, is AR here to stay when it comes to custom footwear? It is, says Patwardhan.
“The usage of AR in footwear is going to be a game-changer. It is extremely precise and comfortable for the users. It has helped us deliver an excellent customer experience and is highly beneficial even from the manufacturing perspective,” he gushes.
AR usage reduces the wastage of raw materials and enhances the finish of the products. The whole manufacturing process can be automated and saving resources and raw materials directly enable higher profit margins and growth for brands.
One of the most significant benefits of our on-demand customised shoes approach is that it eliminates the need to have substantial stock volumes and wait for the customers
“One of the most significant benefits of our on-demand customised shoes approach is that it eliminates the need to have substantial stock volumes and wait for the customers. We keep 25-30 bestselling designs in ready-to-wear condition at all outlets for the customers keen to buy and use the shoes immediately,” he says.
“For those who have some time on hand and want a unique design, we can make and deliver their preferred footwear in 48 hours. This also eliminates the need for ample floor space in expensive commercial areas or malls. A small kiosk-style shop in a mall or a multi-brand outlet is adequate to get going. Thus, significant economies of scale are also in play for our retail partners,” he further adds.
Chappers is expanding its chain of outlets and will soon have franchises in different locations across India. There is no doubt that this trend of AI-driven footwear manufacturing will scale rapidly, and all major footwear makers and startups are likely to follow the lead in the years ahead.
How Chappers Uses AR
The company has built India’s first virtual customisation software that allows the customers to create a personalised design in simple steps. It uses custom AR software to help customers design their footwear in the store.
“The motivation behind this integration is that most Indian customers prefer to get a good look and feel of the fashion and footwear or accessories. By choosing materials, colours, and designs and getting the product created with the help of AR tools, customers can see how it would look on their feet and then decide to place the order,” says Patwardhan.
The Fashion Conscious Tech Savvy Consumer
So, how fashion savvy are Indian men when it comes to footwear? And how well do they use tech for customisation? Or do they prefer the touch and feel about buying the shoes themselves?
Indian millennials are conscious of their footwear choices. With easy access to the latest global trends, the need for comfort and value for money dominate their choices
“Indian millennials are conscious of their footwear choices. With easy access to the latest global trends, the need for comfort and value for money dominate their choices. Also, the look and feel factor is a vital part of the purchasing preferences of most Indian consumers, and we have taken adequate care to address these needs,” replies Patwardhan.
Customers who visit Chappers’ outlets are provided the look and feel of the available material and color options. They can design and virtually try the footwear on before placing an order.
Indian Demand for Customised Footwear
Customised footwear took a long time to come to the forefront. Nike unveiled its customisation platform in 2000, NikeiD, as part of its innovation commitment. Today, Under Armour, Nike, and Adidas all have their own online platforms that let consumers choose materials, colours or patterns to give their running shoes individuality.
Many Indian startups are trying to provide this service at an affordable price. Toesmith, Hats Off Accessories, The Shoe Factory, Knotty Derby and many more brands offer customisation.
Customised footwear has remained an unfulfilled need for a long time because of the lack of technology that could enable buyers to buy precisely what they want and that too quickly, says Patwardhan.
Most people don’t wish to spend so heavily on their footwear. However, by using AR technology, we are helping to eliminate these challenges
“In the conventional method, even if one went to a shoemaker, there would still be a set of designs and material options, and one would have to choose one,” he says.
The second discouraging factor was the time taken in the manufacturing process.
“Consumers don’t want to wait weeks or months to get the proper footwear,” he explains.
Finally, any attempt at buying a 100% order-built shoe of good quality is usually quite expensive.
“Most people don’t wish to spend so heavily on their footwear. However, by using AR technology, we are helping to eliminate these challenges,” he adds.
With a custom design tool, the buyer can choose any color, material, or design option and get it created in the same style. Secondly, startups like Chappers have successfully managed to reduce the cost or the time taken to manufacture and deliver the product.
“Chappers footwear would not cost you more than a renowned branded one and can be delivered across India within 48 hours of order placement. This is how Chappers is now helping unlock customised footwear’s incredible potential,” he says with pride.