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Plaeto To Power Untapped Indian Market For Kids’ Footwear

The startup’s design, manufacturing and engineering teams from India, US and Italy have come up with multiple proprietary design elements that deliver on the brand purpose of safeguarding the health of Indian children’s feet.

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In Rahul Dravid, Ravi Kallayil found a patient ear, a brilliant brain to pick, and a gentle push in the right direction. Kallayil gave up “the best job in the world” with Nike Innovation in Portland, US, and relocated

to India in 2020 to become an entrepreneur. His dream was to make world-class footwear accessible to every Indian child.

“When we approached cricketing icon and current Indian cricket coach, Rahul Dravid, with our product, he was extremely happy to see a world-class product, Made-in-India for children,” said Kallayil. “When someone like Dravid believes in your mission and vision, it is a great confidence booster. He also agreed to be our strategic advisor and mentor, apart from being a brand ambassador,” he added.

In October 2021, Kallayil - with Sara Kilgore and Pavan Kareti - launched Plaeto, India’s first D2C foot-health-focused brand to design and deliver ‘shoes for growing feet’ of Indian kids. The Bengaluru-based startup aims to impact “at least 30% of the 300 million children in India” through its products and programs.

As per industry reports, the Indian footwear industry for children is estimated to reach INR 131.1 billion by 2025, growing at 7.7% CAGR. Incidentally, Plaeto’s Foot Morphology Research found that close to 30% of Indian children are wearing the wrong shoe size. “Clearly, there is an untapped market for a children’s footwear brand that invests in the right technology and ecosystem,” said Plaeto’s CEO and co-founder.

Plaeto has made a conscious attempt to build a health component in its innovation. “A large number of our children are wearing the wrong shoe size and shoes designed for adults, but downsized for their sizes. In fact, most of the shoes are designed based on the feet size and conditions of people in the US or Europe, and there has been little done to understand the local requirement and create a world-class product for Indian feet. Studies show that poorly designed footwear can lead to structural foot and body development issues for children,” explained the entrepreneur who is committed to “creating a safer, playful and a high-quality ecosystem for children in India”.

The startup’s design, manufacturing and engineering teams from India, US and Italy have come up with multiple proprietary design elements that deliver on the brand purpose of safeguarding the health of Indian children’s feet. These include FitSystem, a proprietary Fitliner, which gives an additional ½ size from the same product, without compromising on fit, comfort and performance, and Plato 365, a midsole which is responsive, supportive, and comfortable even after a year of usage. And then, there’s the Plaeto FitFinder, developed in partnership with FindMeaShoe, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to recommend the best-fitting shoes for every kid.

With schools and the outdoors slowly reopening in India, this is perhaps the perfect time to bring the joy of play back into children’s lives – something they have missed out on during the pandemic. “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of spending adequate time outdoors when it comes to children’s health and development, including their mental health. The right footwear and good foot health are critical to encouraging such outdoor exposure and play, and fortunately, Indian parents are becoming aware of this fact,” noted Kallayil.

Plaeto shoes are currently available at Plaeto.in as well as at marketplaces such as Amazon. The brand also operates an offline direct-to-school model through a growing distribution network. “We are aware of the omnichannel environment and depending on the opportunities that present themselves, we are open to evaluating our options in the months to come,” said Kallayil.

In terms of future plans, the startup is focused on making a positive impact in the lives of children in markets across India, as well as foreign markets like Africa, where accessibility to good footwear is a challenge. The long-term strategy also includes propagating the idea of accessible sustainability to developed markets like Europe and the US.

“We see great market potential in this sector, especially for a D2C brand such as Plaeto that is focused on research and innovation,” asserted the entrepreneur, who still remembers the letter from a 10-year-old boy requesting a discount on a shoe almost a decade ago, while Kallayil was working with Nike. That incident sparked off his long quest to figure out “how to make a great shoe for millions of such kids at an accessible price”.

With Plaeto, it’s finally Mission Possible.


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rahul dravid Ravi Kallayil Plaeto indian market