"The sneaker space, at the top of the pyramid, is a premium space."
Trainers are extremely popular among India’s middle-class and young. Its growing trend has now seen Mukesh Ambani express interest in the market.
His online fashion retail portal Ajio launched Sneakerhood in September 2020, a dedicated page for lifestyle trainers.
A company spokesperson told Quartz: “Ajio Sneakerhood has been devised as a repository of both the philosophy and style synonymous with rising global sneaker culture.”
According to the company, this was done while keeping in mind the huge market potential of trainers in India.
For example, shoe sales in India for Adidas grew three times over the past three years.
As the company moves into November 2020, it will start to see popular options like Nike Air Jordan, Nike Air Max and others.
It will also see luxury brands like Emporio Armani. Currently, these brands sell at a significant premium because of import duties and the exchange rate.
This also marks Ajio’s gradual shift to include luxury brands, which it has been doing for other apparel and accessory segments.
Brand strategy expert Harish Bijoor said:
“The sneaker space, at the top of the pyramid, is a premium space. It is indeed a space where the product matters less and brand image matters more.”
India’s trainer market is mostly driven by sneakerheads who monitor new releases and treat purchases as an investment.
The launch of Sneakerhood has left some people sceptical.
New Delhi-based trainer collector Aditya Bhalla said: “Most of us either shop from Myntra [owned by Walmart], directly from the brand’s website, or from curated stores such as VegNonVeg or SuperKicks.”
There are also worries about counterfeit products, a common issue with e-commerce in India.
However, Ajio says it aims to combat this issue with strict verification processes and direct tie-ups with brands.
Currently, the brands on the site are not go-to options for sneakerheads.
Delhi-based blogger Shaun Das explained:
“There are certain brands there that mainstream sneakerheads don’t really mess with like Skechers or Steve Madden.
“Brands like those are known to have stolen designs from Nike/Adidas/Puma and have been sued several times.”
“Some of the stuff they are calling ‘new drops’ aren’t really new. Like that Ozweego (an Adidas trainer), for example, is from last year.
“Most sneakerheads are up to date with what’s new or coming out, so putting old releases there isn’t really a good look.
“I only really see myself using Ajio if they are offering more discounts than the brand websites.”
Discounts are a prominent feature for Ajio’s parent company Reliance whether it is telecoms or groceries.
Mukesh Ambani’s company offers large discounts and by doing so, its market shares grow significantly and force rivals to play by its rules.
Sneakerhood is still a new venture but it is clear that Mukesh Ambani wants a piece of India’s trainer culture.