First of all, introduce yourself, your business, when and how you started.
Utkarsh Biradar and Ganesh Balakrishnan. Co-founders of Flatheads.
Flatheads is an online footwear brand that designs and creates all-day casual sneakers for long lasting comfort. We founded Flatheads in 2019 with a vision to create sneakers that are versatile, suited for both work and fun, and designed specifically for the Indian climate and use cases. We are an e-commerce brand that sells products on our own website and on marketplaces such as Amazon and MensXP.
How did you, your family and your employees manage the lockdown and COVID-19 times?
Like with everyone across the globe, each one of us felt the pinch of the pandemic. We had just begun our journey as a start-up and had to really push ourselves to boost our morale which was unexpectedly hit by COVID-19. We’re so proud to say that the team stepped up to the challenge and came up with creative solutions to tide over the lockdown. We launched a “Learn Something New” series on Instagram, where each team member taught something they were good at. For example, our founder Utkarsh showcased the art of origami while our tech lead Saurabh taught how to beatbox! We also made sure that we had each other’s backs to work together as a team that has now made it to where we are today!
How did this coronavirus pandemic affect your business and how are you coping?
Just as our journey began, the pandemic struck the world. Suddenly, we were thrown into a post COVID market which we had no idea how to navigate. We started by shipping only essentials such as masks and changed our product mix to adapt sneakers that would make sense in a world that was majorly confined to their homes. Our team sat for many brainstorming sessions to come up with new products like a “2 mile” shoe that one could wear while lounging at home or taking a short trip to the grocery store. We also launched India’s first bamboo sneakers, which keep your feet cool and are perfect for the hot Indian summers. We’re continuing to innovate around products that have relevance in the changing market today.
What difficult decisions did you have to make? What are the lessons learned?
One of the most important and difficult decisions we made during the pandemic was to shift our supply chain from China to India. Due to the virus, there were some disruptions in our supply chain and we had to take the call to shift it to India. We realized that there are Indian suppliers who can meet world-class quality standards at competitive cost. Plus, building relationships is working together is much easier since there are no language barriers. We’re proud to say all our sneakers are now Made in India!
Did you face any stress and anxiety? How did you deal with it?
An entrepreneur’s life is usually full of stress and anxiety. The first step is to recognize that it is natural, given that we are fighting for survival most of the time. We usually isolate the issues that are beyond our control, which we can’t do anything about – there is no use worrying about them. We then focus on things we can control, break the situation into manageable chunks, and solve one problem at a time. Getting into problem solving mode usually takes the stress off and lets us be productive on a daily basis. It’s like chasing a high score in cricket – it seems much more achievable if you break it down into smaller targets to be met every 4-5 overs.
Who are your competitors? How does your company innovate / differentiate?
Our competitors are mainly athleisure extensions of sports brands such as Skechers and Puma, and footwear extensions of fashion brands such as US Polo and Benetton. Our biggest innovation is the fact that we focus on the Indian climate and use cases, unlike other brands that are hyper focused on style or functionality. All our sneaker ranges are designed for people who are looking for an everyday shoe that they can pick up without thinking, 5 times out of 7 when they decide to step out. We use fibers like bamboo which are moisture wicking and antimicrobial, making them the best fit for the Indian tropical climate.
Your final thoughts
This decade is the most exciting time for new-age brands to emerge in India. You will see many brands made in India for the world, taking on incumbents and traditional ways of building the business. Buckle up and enjoy the ride! And don’t forget to support new and exciting brands along the way!
Link to your website