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Bata is not Indian. So how did it become as ‘Desi’ as it gets?



If you believed Bata was an Indian brand, you’re not alone. Many Indians were surprised to learn that Bata is not an Indian company. 

In fact, the Bata Shoe Organization has named an Indian as its Global Chief Officer for the first time in its 126-year history. Sandeep Kataria, a graduate of IIT Delhi and XLRI, Jamshedpur, will now lead the organization. 

Footwear from canvas

Bata is a Czechoslovakian family-owned company that was established in 1894 by Tomas Bata and his siblings. Locals flocked to the simple, light, and inexpensive footwear. Bata had devised a mechanised shoe production system by 1912, and its factory employed over 600 people.

After World War One, Tomas responded by halving the cost of his shoes. This bold move resulted in increased revenue and allowed them to grow into other markets. The corporation had 112 branches around the world in 1924, and a production plant in India was established in the 1930s.

Setting up of Batanagar

To accommodate the expanding demand for shoes, Bata established a production facility in Konnar, near Kolkata, in 1932. The demand for Bata shoes grew to the point where the production facility had to be doubled in size within two years. By 1939, the company had approximately 4,000 employees and was selling 3,500 pairs of shoes each week.

The legendary tennis shoes were first designed and manufactured in this factory. Many purchasers were ignorant of the shoe’s Indian origins because it was designed in Europe. “There’s always a terrific story to tell,” says Charles Pignal, the company’s fourth-generation owner.

Becoming a home brand for Indians

Bata kept itself at the top of the market in the 1980s, when it faced severe competition from Khadims and Paragon, by embarking on an advertising binge. The company introduced catchy taglines in addition to stressing its utility, durability, and cost. These were worn by those who grew up in India during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

“Beware of tetanus, even a minor injury can be dangerous – therefore wear a shoe,” one of the company’s taglines warns, to promote awareness among the Indian subcontinent, which is not used to wearing shoes at all.

India is the world’s second-largest producer and consumer of shoes, and Bata, based in Switzerland, continues to be one of the top brands in providing comfortable yet trendy footwear at reasonable costs. It might have originated in erstwhile Czechoslovakia, but it has taken on decidedly Indian flavours over the years. 


Investor’s greed a problem, says Sankaran Naren




Gordon Gekko might have felt that greed, for lack of a better word, is good, but that isn’t always the case. The human urge to clamour for more has caught many an investor on the wrong foot and Sankaran Naren, Executive Director and CIO at ICICI Prudential, opines that investor greed is increasing day-by-day, which is a problem.

Naren Indian equity portfolios at ICICI Prudential, and has worked with various financial services companies, including Refco Sify Securities India and HDFC Securities. Delving further into the issue at hand, he says, “We are not seeing a problem in the macro or business cycle. But investor greed is a bigger problem. They think that there is only one asset class called equity and there is nothing called risk and that is the bigger problem rather than anything else in the macro or business cycle from an India point of view. In the world, all the way from 2012, people have not seen market corrections in the US. There people are used to investing in stocks and not worrying at all about market corrections except in 2018 December and 2020 March,” said Sankaran.

At this point, he believes that it is very important for investors to practice asset allocation and that they should make choices based on earnings connected to 2021 or 2022, investing in names which have steady operating cash flows, dividend yield, etc.

“The key learning from 2007 is that investors who invested in IPOs based on 2014 earnings were in for a disappointment. There is a fair amount of froth in many parts of the markets, particularly in new-age areas. Unlike Asia which has seen periodic market corrections, since 2012, US equities have barely witnessed a meaningful correction,” said the fund manager.

“Today the number of loss-making new age companies trading at stretched valuations is very high in the US compared with dividend-paying, cash flow-generating old economy-oriented companies,” he concluded, as he offered an investment roadmap for stocks and mutual funds to a rapt audience. 

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Mercedes to slow expansion in India, opt for direct sales




In what perhaps signal a shift in the often traditional ways of carmakers, Mercedes-Benz will not expand its dealer network in India beyond the current sales and service touch points as it transitions to a direct gross sales model. This will see the German titan assume responsibility for distribution, warehouse, retail, and even reductions. 

The company, which leads India’s luxury market, has committed Rs. 60 crore to the new retail concept, which will see sellers work as franchisee partners, largely responsible for product demos, model expertise, automobile supply, and after-gross sales. 

“The new direct-to-customer model – under the ‘Retail of the Future’ initiative — will help drive in transparency and ease into the whole system through installation of a robust online platform,” Mercedes India MD & CEO Martin Schwenk stated. 

Mercedes will announce a nationally-set cost under the new system, as it will own the whole inventory of vehicles and charge them directly to customers. The intriguing part is that dealers will not be permitted to provide any discounts to entice customers, and will instead be treated like franchise partners. Any incentive program can be implemented immediately by the company. 

This will be the first time an automaker completes direct gross sales with sellers and retailers – now referred to as franchise partners – who will be engaged purely for inquiries, customer service, supply, and repair help, earning a fee and incentive based on the volumes they sell. 

“We are present in around 50 cities, which is sufficient to take care of existing and new customers. We have no intentions to further increase or reduce this network.” said Schwenk. 

The firm says that the measure will guarantee higher dealer profitability by eliminating possibilities of any inter-dealer cut-throat worth warfare. The sellers may even profit by saving on the stock holding price that they presently have. Such expense usually runs into crores of rupees for every retailer, and carries a curiosity price and potential penalties if shares should not liquidate (bought) on time by them. This retail program has already been carried out in countries like Austria, Sweden and South Africa, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in India. 

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Swiggy to give 2-day paid monthly period leave to female delivery partners




Food delivery giant Swiggy has announced a two-day paid monthly period leave policy for female delivery partners, marking an industry first. Swiggy has over 1000 women on its delivery team, and has stated that since bringing on female delivery partners, it has been working to increase inclusivity and diversity across the platform. The company believes that providing a welcoming environment for women will inspire them to explore delivering with them.  

Other initiatives to deepen inclusivity include enabling access to vehicles, access to hygienic restrooms, and implementing safety measures for female delivery partners. Mihir Shah, Vice President of Operations at Swiggy, said discomfort from being out and about on the road while menstruating is probably one of the most underreported reasons why many women don’t consider delivery to be a viable gig.  

“To support them through any menstruation-related challenges, we’ve introduced a no-questions-asked, two-day paid monthly period time-off policy for all our regular female delivery partners,” said Shah.  

SoftBank-backed Swiggy has approximately 200,000 delivery partners, with about 1,000 of them being female. Swiggy hired its first female delivery partner in Pune in 2016. “Since then, we’ve been working hard to promote inclusivity and diversity across the platform, with a goal of increasing the number of female delivery partners in Swiggy’s delivery fleet,” Shah added.

“Swiggy understands the pain of a woman in the field and period leave will definitely motivate more women to choose this platform and be independent,” said Komal, a delivery partner from Chennai.  

Last year, rival company Zomato announced a period leave policy, allowing female employees to take up to 10 period leaves in a year. These are available to employees and not the gig workforce. It has, however, taken steps to have a more inclusive gig workforce. In June this year, it said it has set a goal of reaching 10 percent female delivery partners by the end of 2021 starting with Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune. 

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