This shoe repair establishment has 11 outlets, including 6 across Chennai. And it all began in a small shop at Spencer Plaza in 2003, writes Liffy Thomas
Your brand-new Jimmy Choo high heels are one size too big. What do you do? Take it to a roadside cobbler or have it resized by a footwear technician? If you decide on the latter, you may consider taking it to Mr. Pronto. The shoe and bag repair establishment has six outlets across Chennai; four in Banglore and one in Delhi. The cliniques – as Mr. Pronto chooses to call these repair shops – either function within air-conditioned malls, metro stations or operate as standalones. More outlets are expected to come up once Chennai Metro Rail starts operations.
The current stores across the three metropolitan cities are equipped to attend to all kinds of complaints, including resoling, suede recolouring and orthopedic adjustments. Wearing uniforms and practiced smiles, the staff members add to the corporate environment that envelops these shops. In a march towards greater modernisation, Mr. Pronto is working on computerizing all its stores.
Mr. Pronto is the brainchild of Abhishek Dhingra, an MBA graduate from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Philippines. While pursuing his management studies at AIM, Dhingra warmed up to the idea of starting such a chain patterned on Mr. Quickie, which was masterminded by a friend in Philippines. In 2003, Dhingra set up Mr. Pronto at Spencer Plaza, hiring two footwear technicians and one cobbler, who was picked up from outside the shopping complex. He adopted a hands-on approach, learning to repair shoes himself. The first three years were a grind with Dhingra’s boys diligently distributing pamphlets about the store. Now, Mr. Pronto is well-known but Dhingra and his core team have a host of other challenges to deal with. One of them is finding and training manpower. In the first six years, Dhingra visited slums to convince cobblers why working for him was financially more viable. “I picked up 30 cobblers from around the city and placed them in our different outlets,” says Dhingra, who is designated Chief Shoe Care Consultant. Opening clinics at malls proved a money-spinner both for Mr. Pronto and the malls.
“We bring customers back to the mall. So, malls at Bangalore roll out the red carpet to us,” says Dhingra, whose store at Ampa Sky Walk opened last August and is doing good business. “But we have not stopped experimenting with new business models,” says Dhingra. For details, log in to mrpronto.com
(A column about entities that have outgrown neighbourhoods)