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Viant uses 100% genuine leather: Dheeraj Guwalani

In conversation with Dheeraj Guwalani, Founder, Viant, who talks about what makes his brand different from others in the market.

Tags: Viant, Startup, Leather shoe brand, leather industry, shoe industry, Formal shoes, men wear, Cole Haan

BY Zarafshan Shiraz  |  September 19, 2017  |  comments ( 0 )  | 

Dheeraj Guwalani

Viant is a leading footwear brand that crafts elite leather shoes for men. The design philosophy adopts classic Italian craftsmanship complemented by Indian sensibilities. Dheeraj ​Guwalani, founder of the brand, talks to Indian Retailer about its’ relaunch and how Viant surpasses international manufacturing standards and expectations. 

What has been the culture of innovation in the shoemaking industry so far?
The shoemaking industry so far has been revolving around the sole of the shoes. It has always been a throb to enhance the comfort, and it substantially depends on the construction or the sole of a shoe. We’ve seen persistent contemplation and innovation in the soles – from complete hard-sheet/leather soles in the 70’s &80’s to flexible rubber/tpr soles and from heavy welted soles to lightweight eva soles.

In the recent times, there has been a complete evolution in the outsoles. The consumer today is aware of the technicalities, making it an impetus for the brands and the shoe-makers to come out with something new and better every day. Brands like Cole Haan are my personal favorites in terms of innovation. Even Viant strives to nurture innovation and comfort as its key ethos. With ‘placing luxury at your feet’ being our prime motive, we offer a wide range of comfortable shoes. Our collection that features 4 super-flexible rubber outsoles is a sheer example of luxury. At Viant, we offer a special range of loafers that is precisely crafted to ensure ample comfort; the loafers are embedded with dual footbeds and acupuncture insoles that are proven to improve blood circulation in the body.

Discuss the value added features of your new collection.
Our new collection is a special one for us. We’ve been in the industry for quite some time now and we’d been using a similar range of designs for around 7-8 years until we decided to re-launch the brand. This collection is our first after the relaunch and it won’t be gain saying to say that it is inch- perfect. I personally took charge to craft this new collection. The technical and design knowledge that he brings to the table is unbeatable. I think that he is personally making this whole new collection valuable. Each and every design has been his creation. From selecting the threads to leather and the outsoles, he has been personally involved at every stage. His unabashed endeavors really turned out into a trove of shoes that is nothing less than edgy.

Where do you obtain your raw materials from?
We are currently sourcing our raw materials from some of the best markets in the world that subsumes various leading Indian cities and countries. The beckoning aspect of our shoes is the leather quality we offer and we have Italy to thank for it. Not just the leather, we put in equal amount of efforts for sourcing other parts also, even the smallest of the part we use is nothing less than supreme. Our shoe accessories are usually sourced from Indian cities; Aligarh a small town near Agra manufactures some really good metal accessories. Some of our accessories are sourced from Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, and China as well. All of our outsoles are first molded in China and then produced locally. Cloth and interlinings are usually bought from China and the Indian state of Punjab. I believe China is an important market for sourcing of the raw materials; their technology, time frames, systems and production quality is unmatchable.

What is the price range you offer?
We have worked really hard to keep the costs as minimal as possible. We’ve conducted immense R&D when it comes to raw materials, to keep the costs low while maintaining the same quality standards that Viant promises. Our range currently starts from Rs. 2999 and goes up to Rs. 4499.

We endeavor to keep the consuming patterns of our target market in consideration, and our 27 years of experience in the industry comes handy here. We believe that the costing/pricing should be apt for the Indian consumer who doesn’t tend to spend a lot on shoes; thus we have limited our pricing to the Rs. 5000 range.

Tell us about some of your innovations in this business that set you apart.
Again, I think the outsoles come into play here. We have been doing immense R&D to make soft and flexible outsoles to provide premium comfort. We have put our leathers in extreme testing conditions to make sure that the consumer gets the optimum experience out of it. We have focused our resources to evolve outsoles and leather the most. As said earlier, besides our other offerings, our range of loafers is specially designed with the acupuncture technology and embedded footbeds for a luxurious experience. According to me, the softness and durability of our leather combined with the comfort of our outsoles really set us apart.

Which leather material does your company prefer most?
Viant uses 100% genuine leather. Sourced from the most premium tanneries around the globe, most of our leather is sourced from Latin America, Italy and the Russian subcontinent. So far, this collection features only cow leather.

What are you doing in your bid to save the environment?
We, at Viant, put in a great amount of effort to make sure that we are not disturbing or polluting the environment in any way. All our leather skins are naturally dyed without the use of any type of chemicals. The waste from our manufacturing workshop is completely treated before draining it out of the premises. All the food waste from our workshop’s canteen is recycled to make bio-compost/bio-fertilisers which are then used in a neighboring field.

Comment on your growth in comparison to your competitors.
This new collection from Viant has received an overwhelming response. We created a stock of 5000 pairs before opening the bookings and we were completely sold out in the initial 15 days. After the re-launch of the brand, we have entered into more-than-ever retail outlets. This time, Viant is spreading its footprints nation-wide and we have not faced any difficulty in getting our brand placed in even the best of locations so far. We have covered locations that our competitors have never been in and this is a big morale booster for the whole Viant team. We don't comment on our competitors’ growth, but we definitely know that we are headed in the right direction. All the elements of our collection - the leather, the comfort and the packaging have played a major role in this recognition and we extend our gratitude to everyone who has become a part of our Viant family.

What have been the limitations so far?
To a certain extent, pricing has been a limitation; some cities still find the shoes to be expensive. We are working towards a collection which is more suitable for a lower price range.

We could also term the overwhelming response as a limitation. Since we were not expecting to receive such good orders on such short notice, we were not prepared for a larger production. We started with a plan of producing 250 pairs a day, but now, only in the initial 2 months, we have pushed ourselves to produce nearly 700 pairs every day. This challenge came as a blessing to us since it made us rapidly increase our production capacity in a very short period of time.

What are your expansion plans?
In this whole new collection, we have added boots and proper dress shoes in leather or hard sheet outsole, which in a way has been an expansion. So far, Viant had only been making everyday work shoes, but now we have extended our approachto a completely different segment. You would find shoes for every occasion in this collection - from your board meetings to your Saturday night chill session.

Looking at the bigger picture, Viant plans to open Independent stores by the end of 2018. We are also planning to add some leather products to our collection to meet all the needs of leather-loving consumers. 

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