Art in their soles

Mumbai 21/11/17 Rajeev and Trishla Surana, founders of Colour me mad at their office in Churchgate  Photo: Emmanual Yogini

Mumbai 21/11/17 Rajeev and Trishla Surana, founders of Colour me mad at their office in Churchgate Photo: Emmanual Yogini

Growing up, shopping for footwear never really excited Trishla Surana: she found the designs available unattractive. She dreamt of starting her own footwear line which would be aesthetically appealing, colourful, and yes, comfortable. All through a commerce degree and a course in commercial arts, and then a home business making designer jewellery, the dream stayed.

Then, one day, watching her daughters (then aged 10 and 7 years) drawing cupcakes and ice-creams, a thought struck her: why not preserve their art in some way? “I decided to print them on the soles of their footwear,” she says. Their joy on seeing their artwork on their shoes was priceless, and enough proof-of-concept for her. In 2014, Ms. Surana and her husband, Rajeev, founded Colour Me Mad, to make customised, comfortable, quirky footwear, “giving users an opportunity to choose and create their own designs and colours.”

Stumbling along

The journey was not easy. First, the footwear industry is largely unorganised: “Customisation is at a nascent stage in India,” says Tarika Ali, CMM’s Production Head, “and it was difficult for us to explain the concept to

the karigars [artisans] who felt that making everything from scratch was not a scalable idea.” Ms. Surana was also warned that with stiff competition, especially cheap Chinese imports, available, her business was not sustainable.

Undeterred, in 2015 CMM launched their first product, printed beach slippers for adults and children above 10. They also created, on their website, a system which let users choose from templates or create their own designs.

CMM exhibited at an annual fair in a Bandra school, and got lots of enquiries but negligible sales. The website also failed to get much traction. Rajeev Surana, who heads sales and marketing, says, “We realised that footwear is a category where people need to touch, feel and try before deciding, so it is important to create an offline presence.” The couple dived deeper, researching the footwear industry and the aspirations of Indian consumers.

Baby steps

Research done, CMM then launched flip-flops with vibrant designs on the straps and soles, and signed up at various lifestyle exhibitions. This time there was instant acceptance. They then tied up with online stores like Engrave, Amazon and Flipkart. “Within six months, we sold more than 100 pairs in the price range of ₹800-1,000,” says Mr. Surana.

Aahana Doshi (13), a resident of Malabar Hill who bought two pairs three months ago, finds the footwear “extremely comfortable.” The prints on the fabric are “simply amazing”, and her friends too want flip-flops like hers. Chandni Dutt (40), from Delhi, wanted to give her husband a set of personalised gifts for his birthday. “While I had bought all the gifts, I had no clue regarding footwear,” she says. “CMM made beautiful personalised flip-flops with his name written on the strap and a lovely message printed on the soles.”

Big strides

An admirer of the German footwear brand Birkenstock, which pioneered cork footwear almost two centuries ago, Ms. Surana decided to experiment with the material. “The benefits of cork in terms of comfort and orthotics and podiatry have been consistently proven for decades. Cork provides excellent shock absorption, cushioning, ground insulation and water proofing, besides being eco-friendly.” There aren’t many suppliers of cork in India, though, so this took time to get moving. Finally, in 2016, CMM tied up with a partner in Delhi and launched their Comfee line for women. Javed Mujawar, product developer, says that what sets Comfee apart is its eco-friendly component; unlike other brands, which use polyurethane with cork, CMM uses only natural rubber.

The company also recently unveiled its Friendship line, where they have brought on board cartoonist Abhijeet Kini to do the artwork. And the company tied up with a few NGOs, and now ₹10 from every sale is donated towards providing footwear to the underprivileged.

CMM also represented India in the International Innovation Fair, in Istanbul in March 2016, and later at Milan in December 2016. In a lifestyle exhibition in Dubai, they recently launched Comfee Wedges, for women looking for heels which are fashionable and yet comfortable.

Next steps

The Suranas have invested around ₹30 lakh from their own funds. Until 2016, revenue was just around ₹3 lakh. Today, their products are available in six cities — Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Jalgaon and Kolkata — and they sell around 500 pairs a month. Turnover, since the August 2016 launch of Comfee, has crossed ₹50 lakh.

The company plans to launch cork footwear for men and children soon, and also expand into formal wear, foldable slippers (for the travel market) and even Kolhapuri slippers with the CMM touch. To fund their expansion, CMM is now in the process of raising ₹1 crore from angel investors.

“By participating in marquee exhibitions, appointing CMM sellers, partnering with the retail market,” says Mr. Surana, “our focus is to scale in India, both online and offline.”

Colour Me Mad

Founders: Trishla Surana and Rajeev Surana

Founded: 2014

Funding: Bootstrapped

Employees: 10

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Printable version | May 22, 2022 6:20:07 pm |