Making Shoes That Fit Indian Children

As India’s first D2C foot-health focused footwear brand for children, the endeavour is to make great shoes accessible for Indian kids.

With schools across India reopening after a long, unplanned break of two years, it’s time for parents to make one of the most essential, yet little-understood purchases for their kids. Buying school shoes for children is no mean task.

“It is the most-used product in a child’s life, given that they use it for about eight hours a day, five days a week. That’s 250-300 days a year!” says Ravi Kallayil, CEO and co-founder of Plaeto, a Bengaluru-based startup that designs and delivers world-class footwear for Indian children at an accessible price.

As a professional who has worked across footwear, apparel, engineering and consumer product industries in the US, India, Africa and Nepal for over two decades, Kallayil is acutely aware of the market gaps and unmet consumer demands. “There’s a huge untapped market in India for a children’s footwear brand that invests in the right technology and ecosystem,” notes the alumnus of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.

Kallayil’s inspiration for Plaeto dates back to about 10 years ago, while he was working with Nike in the US. A letter from a 10-year-old boy requesting a discount on a shoe made Kallayil ponder: ‘How can we make a great shoe for millions of Indian kids at an accessible price?’ The question stayed with him for many years; until finally, in 2020, he gave up his job with Nike Innovation and relocated to India to become an entrepreneur.

With co-founders Sara Kilgore and Pavan Kareti, Kallayil went on to create a pioneering Made-in-India footwear brand that aims “to enable a safer, playful and high-quality ecosystem for the children of the country”. With Plaeto, India’s first D2C foot-health focused footwear brand for children, the endeavour is to make great shoes accessible for Indian children.

Plaeto’s Foot Morphology Research found that 30% of Indian children are wearing the wrong shoe size because the foot is measured incorrectly. “This can cause potential harm to children. Studies show that poorly designed footwear can lead to severe foot and body structure development issues for children during their formative years and later,” explains the entrepreneur. 

In less than 18 months since its inception, Plaeto’s footwear design and development teams from India, US and Italy – armed with decades of collective product experience with footwear brands such as Nike and Adidas – have developed a host of proprietary design elements. They take care of the needs of children’s growing feet, with a strong focus on science-based shoes made of highly supportive materials that are durable and tough, making them ideal partners for adventurous, active and mischievous feet.

The startup has been encouraging important conversations on the topic of foot health, particularly among children and their parents. As the world recovers from the pandemic and children get back to schools and playgrounds, it’s important to provide them with a conducive environment that promotes physical activity and the joy of ‘play’ in their lives. “The right footwear and good foot health are fundamental factors and fortunately, Indian parents are becoming aware of this fact,” says Kallayil. The startup is also actively collaborating with schools to build a healthy dialogue to drive the change. 

The Indian footwear market for children is estimated to reach INR 131 billion by 2025, growing at 7.7% CAGR, according to industry reports. There’s immense potential for disruption and growth in this segment. 

“Our goal is to make a positive impact in the lives of as many Indian children as possible, while also tapping into foreign markets like Africa, where accessibility to good footwear is still a challenge,” says Kallayil, who is, currently, in talks with investors to fuel Plaeto’s growth plans. So far, the startup has received angel funding from marquee investors

In the long-term, Plaeto also aims to propagate the idea of accessible sustainability to developed markets, such as Europe and US. Plaeto shoes have a 50% lower carbon footprint as compared to the average athletic shoe and the company is striving for a zero-waste manufacturing process in order to create net-zero carbon footwear. 

 

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