‘Our employees stay with us longer’

September 10, 2015

Published by tata.com

Bachi Shoes (BSL) — based in Chennai — is a leading manufacturer of footwear, and a subsidiary of Tata International. Excerpts from an interview with V Muthukumaran, the CEO of BSL

Could you take us through the journey of Bachi Shoes — from inception to 2010, when it was acquired by TIL, and post-acquisition till today?
The history of Bachi Shoes goes back to 1974 when PS Rajagopal Naidu established Jai Bharat Tanners at Ambur, Tamil Nadu. The tannery, manufacturing and exporting finished leather, soon gained recognition and became a trusted name in the industry.

In 1985, Mr Naidu’s son PR Varadarajalu initiated the manufacture and export of leather shoe uppers from Ranipet, about 74km from Ambur. He floated a company under the nickname of his son PV Gopalakrishna, fondly called ‘Bachi’. Bachi Shoes grew rapidly under the founder’s and his brother PR Vishwanth’s able direction.

Mr Bachi began working in the factory at a young age; he standardised the manufacturing process. To hone his technical skills, he left for Germany to specialise in shoe technology at Deutsche Schuhfachschule, the German College of Footwear Design and Technology.

On his return to India eight years later, in 1998, he decided to concentrate on manufacturing children’s shoes, besides focusing on design, product development, increasing the manufacturing base and ‘corporatising’ operations. Bachi Shoes started manufacturing full shoes in 2002.

In 2005, the group set up Euro Shoe Component to manufacture soles for in-house requirements. In 2010, Tata International (TIL) acquired a 76 percent stake in the group. Following the acquisition, the tannery and two manufacturing units became a public limited company called Bachi Shoes and the soles manufacturing entity became Euro Shoes.

Bachi Shoes is a gold status export house and India’s largest manufacturer of children’s footwear. It was awarded for excellence in export performance for 1990-91, 1997-98 and 2013-14 by the Council for Leather Exports. It is are among the first shoe companies to acquire ISO 9001:2008 accreditation and one of the few to acquire SA 8000:2008 certification. In 2011, BSL acquired two manufacturing units in Ranipet and Ambur to expand its manufacturing base.

Currently, Bachi Shoes — with 4,000 employees of which 80 percent are women — has 15 units, with a production capacity of 2.5 million pairs per annum, catering to clients in Europe, the UK and America.


Could you also tell us about your journey within the company?
After six years’ experience with another shoe manufacturer, I joined Bachi Shoes in 2002 as an assistant manager. At that time, the company was making around 300 pairs per day. I used my core skill in planning to establish processes for capacity utilisation.

In 2007, I became general manager (operations); our capacity increased to 3,000 pairs per day. We kept growing steadily and produced around 6,000 pairs per day by 2010 when TIL acquired a majority stake in the company. In 2013, I became BSL’s COO.

In March 2015, Mr Bachi stepped down as the company’s MD after a stellar and inspiring career.

Between 2010 and March 2015, our turnover increased from USD15 million to USD50 million, and our production increased to 2.5 million pairs per annum. On April 1, 2015, I took over as CEO and look forward to leading the company to scale new heights in the years ahead.

What are the major footwear brands produced by the company?
We work with brands such as Clarks, Elefanten, Superfit, Kickers, Stones & Bones and Start-rite.

Are there plans to diversify into other leather accessories for children?
We do not have any plans to diversify into accessories and will focus on shoe manufacturing.

Are all your products exported, or do you sell in the domestic market as well?
We export nearly 98 percent of our products.

What are the major employee-friendly initiatives adopted by the company? Are they unique to the footwear / leather industry in India?
We assist our employees in several ways like giving them interest-free advance salary for children’s education. Every year, we give incentives to company drivers who have provided accident-free service. We also have production and full-attendance incentives for employees.

Despite high resource mobility in the industry, especially by skilled technicians, our employees stay with us comparatively longer. In fact, we give long service awards to employees completing 10, 15, 20 and 25 years of service. It includes a gold coin with the company logo embossed on it.

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