Harshwardhan Patwardhan – Chappers Footwear

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1. A bit about yourself and how you landed up being an Entrepreneur?

Born and brought up in a business family, my natural inclination was always towards being an entrepreneur. My father owns a transport Solution company based in Pune,India by the name Prasanna Purple Mobility Solutions. Though for some years I had assumed I will work with my father in the future, as I grew up I realised the travel industry was not my forte. Being a true patriot, I could not stay in the United Kingdom for more than a year and came back instantly after completing my MSC Management from the University of Nottingham. I had worked in my family business for about 6 months when I started to feel the need to do something different. I thought……Bang..!! I wanted to promote my country. I wanted to do something that would make India stand out. I cannot and will not ever be ready to accept our country as a third world country. I can, all of us can do something to get rid of this tag. This was the start of Chappers.

2. What is Chappers all about? How did you get the idea and what does the brand stand for?

I Love Kolhapuri chappals..! They are so stylish. So unique. Each and every person in our country has bought or wants to buy a pair of Loafers, Moccasins, Brogues etc. While this is not wrong, why does no one want to buy Kolhapuris..?! Just because they are made in India and not in Italy or US..? Just because a pair of needy hands make them, not an expensive machine..? People find Greek sandals and gladiators fancy and expensive, just because the Greeks are proud of their product.! The reality is there is very little difference between Indian chappals and Greek sandals. Its just that we are not proud of our own chappals. Chappers tries to solve this question..! We want to make Indians proud of Indian products first, then the world will follow.

We manufacture Kolhapuri chappal inspired footwear. We have tried to solve the three major problems of Kolhapuri chappals, one we have made them extremely comfortable, second, we have vibrant colours and modern designs, and third, Chappers have an ultra thin hardened rubber sole to provide grip to the user. On top of everything, Chappers are completely handcrafted. We want the Indian youth to start using and promoting Indian products rather than imported goods. After all, we cannot just say “acchhe din aane waale hai” and expect our Prime Minister to change everything. We can change our country ourselves. Lets start it RIGHT NOW..!

3. I understand that you are passionate about what you do. What do you have to say to the people who are unsure of what they are passionate about?

I think any job is not impossible if you are passionate about it. It can be true otherwise too, any small job can seem difficult if you are not passionate about it. As I have been in the stage where I did not know what I wanted to do, I can easily understand the situation of these people. I am 22 years old and I fortunately found my passion at a young age. For people who have still not found out where their passion lies, please hang on. Do not lose hope and start doing anything you do not like to do. Start exploring, start by thinking of 10 things you really like. Analyse if there are any business opportunities relating to these fields. Is there any gap in the market which you can fill ? Is there any product which you can improve ? The most important thing in your life is enjoying your life. If you are thinking of doing something just for the money, think again..! Will you be able to do this all your life ? If not, why do it now..? Instead search for something that will make you feel as though you are not working.I believe, If you are not enjoying your work, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE MONEY..!

4.  Your journey with Chappers so far and the hurdles you faced in the journey you have managed to survive.

Chappers is only 5 months old and the number one problem we have faced till now is dealing with the craftsmen. The craftsmen are very innocent and do not understand contemporary style. They think its okay to deviate from designs and create what they think would look good. They are also very rigid as to how the Kolhapuris are manufactured and are adamant to accept that there can be new and better ways of manufacturing.

Coming from a transport company which operates and owns around 1200 buses and has won many national awards and was featured in the top 100 Small and Medium Companies of India award, it was very difficult to convince the society that I am planning to sell ‘Kolhapuri chappals’, which is considered to be the job of roadside sellers. It was very frustrating at times when even family members thought I was crazy to take up such a job. But, as Chappers evolved, I was able to convince everyone that this might be a very interesting start to my career. The thing that helped me to survive this tension was the fact that I believed in Chappers and my ability to take it ahead. People started realizing that the feedbacks about the product are actually very good and that people are liking the initiative I have taken.

5. What are the next steps with the business and what are your plans for the future?

As of now we are in conversation with some websites and we are launching soon on some websites including Housefactory.net Such websites are a very good medium to reach the masses and establish Chappers as a brand. Chappers will also be entering the retail market and soon people will be able to buy Chappers from various boutiques in their cities. We are also in talks with some agents and retailers in the UK and Australia to promote Indian footwear in those countries.Within the next 3 years, Chappers plans to open its flagship stores in India, starting from its hometown, Pune.

6. Where do you look for inspiration and your advise for other entrepreneurs starting out?

People who passionately do something to change the world are my prime source of inspiration. People like Richard Branson,the founder of Virgin group and Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla motors are people who actually have the vision to change the world for the better. People like these will always inspire young entrepreneurs like me and will eventually make the world a better place to live in. Also, one does not need to find inspiration outside if they have an inspirational figure in their own house. My dad is the most inspiring person for me, as he is constantly on the lookout to reform the transport system of the country. Our company operates public transport buses in cities like Bhopal, Indore, Delhi, Ludhiana, Pune etc with a vision to improve the public transport system of this country. He is a public figure and is the Vice President of the Maharashtra Transport Association, motivating many people apart from me to take an initiative and change India for the better.

The only suggestion I will give young entrepreneurs is to follow their heart. The heart can never be wrong. Never succumb to pressure from relatives, friends etc and do something you do not like to do. Life will be miserable if you do not love what you do. Life will be a blessing if you love what you do. And please please hang on till you find your passion. Keep moving towards it and it will move towards you too.

Request everyone to please visit their facebook page at-  https://www.facebook.com/chappersindia. Feel free to share feedback at mychappers@gmail.com.