7-10, an Indian homegrown sneaker brand was born out of Shibani Bhagat's inspiration to combine high fashion with superior quality and affordability.
Born and raised in Pune, Shibani Bhagat, 31, is a graduate from the London College of Fashion with a BA (Hons) in fashion management.
Presently based out of Mumbai, the fashion enthusiast hopes to breathe fresh life into the Indian sneaker world with her truly homegrown product that could be the next cool cult favourite.
"Having studied both design and management has given me the foundation to understand and successfully build different aspects of my fashion business," she says.
Established in February 2022, 7-10's sneakers are designed to provide quality, confidence, comfort and joy for all ages and gender.
The brand's Instagram page makes for a perfect weekend scroll -- its unique styling has caught the attention of sneakerheads, especially the millennials.
The biggest draw for young shoe lovers is 7-10's freshness and fashion-forward aesthetics.
Much to her surprise, Shibani's father Anilkumar Sanghvi is a huge fan of the brand. The month they launched, he purchased three pairs of 7-10 sneakers.
"Despite having flatfeet, he found the sneakers extremely comfortable. He loves them, and so does my mother, husband and in-laws."
"Let's say that people who are young at heart are 7-10's biggest fans," she laughs.
A single child, Shibani's father groomed her from a young age to run a business.
"At the age of four or five, I used to discuss balance sheets with my dad. He was confident that I'd understand numbers."
By the time Shibani was 13-14, she could easily read the balance sheets and profit and loss accounts.
"There was always gender equality in my house. No one ever thought that I'd take the position of a homemaker because I was a girl."
Shibani's mother Sabina Sanghvi was in journalism for many years and headed Radio One for the last 10 years.
"I have been very lucky to have parents who are extremely supportive, not just emotionally but also financially."
In an interview with Anita Aikara/Rediff.com, Shibani shares her inspiration, design process, biggest challenges and advice she'd like to give anyone wanting to launch their brand.
Why sneakers? Are you a shoe enthusiast?
India is the second largest manufacturer of footwear, most of which is exported.
The country has the capability to produce beautifully handcrafted products, but very few have been able to establish an Indian homegrown brand.
Rather than buying international brands, we can have our own product which we're proud of and is designed by our people.
The whole idea of starting a homegrown sneaker brand stemmed from there and research reveals a strong rise in the global sneaker culture.
Everything that gets adopted in the West, slowly comes into India. I wanted that bit of first movers advantage.
I didn't want to be to ahead of the curve, but I knew this is the right time to get in.
While apparel has low barrier to entry -- anyone can get into that business -- sneakers are a complex product.
It is not as simple as manufacturing a slipper, and there are a lot of components that go into making a good sneaker.
Also sneakers are associated with comfort, which meant I had to balance a lot of things along with the design (comfort, look, feel and brand).
As the barrier of entry with sneakers is so high, it was a space which would let me crave a niche without too much competition.
There has been a lot of time and effort that's gone into the brand. I worked on the project for a year-and-a-half before I launched.
Personally, if this was a product that I wouldn't wear, I would not have sold it in the first place.
What's your favourite part of designing sneakers?
The process of making sneakers is extremely challenging and rewarding at the same time -- right now I'm working 12 hours a day as we have just launched.
It starts with me and my lead designer Saurav (a graduate from NID) brainstorming new ideas and the overall direction for the next collection.
After many iterations and laying down several blueprints for each style, we proceed to multiple rounds of sampling to ascertain which of our ideas are being brought to life as envisioned.
Our passion for combining high fashion and sneakers has been the driving force behind creating products with a design-led twist.
It is an incredible feeling for us to see our concepts come to life.
We have teamed up with one of India's leading manufacturers for international footwear brands based out of Agra.
Their 65 years of manufacturing experience lends its expertise in helping us attain high quality product.
How do you plan to stay afloat in this market?
While many footwear brands have sprouted over the last few years, the homegrown lifestyle sneaker market is still nascent.
I believe we have a first mover advantage in this space.
By giving our customers uniquely designed, good quality products at affordable prices, we plan to stay ahead of the competition.
How do you keep the sneakers affordable?
Our sneakers range from ₹2,999 to ₹4,999.
As a brand 7-10 has always believed in making lifestyle sneakers attainable to mass India.
If that means compromising profit margins to achieve a superior quality and affordable product, it's a business decision that was taken early on.
How do you ensure there is a perfect pair for every sneaker enthusiast?
Our first collection included a variety of styles -- from classic low-tops to graphic high-tops and designer chunky sneakers.
Complex panelling, innovative material play and unconventional design all curated into a high-quality product go into making the perfect pair of sneakers.
We have experimented with PVC in bright colours for that extra elevation.
A collection of 7-10 unisex T-shirts have been launched so that our customers can style it with their new sneakers.
Launching a brand during a pandemic.
We started off the brand during COVID and everyone was very comfortable working from home.
I have basically built a team online, which was very challenging but rewarding as well.
I am using my dad's office in Pune and the entire team works out of there.
I visit them twice a month, otherwise I'm working remotely from Mumbai.
Did you face a challenge getting the sneakers up to the style quality you envisioned?
That was the biggest challenge.
I have changed five manufacturers because they were not able to deliver the quality that I wanted.
Finally I found a manufacturer who does international production.
It was an absolute struggle and I have travelled all over the country to find the right manufacturer.
There was a point when I almost thought of closing the business down.
That's when I found the final manufacturer -- he is the main reason why 7-10 exists.
What's your dream for 7-10?
To create a successful Indian lifestyle brand operating at an international level for innovation-led design, high-quality products and technologically advanced user experiences.
Tips to keep in mind while buying a good pair of sneakers.
A good pair of sneakers should first give you comfort.
They should be stylish and add to your entire ensemble.
It is great to have a nice pair of white sneakers in your closet.
It can be paired with multiple outfits and can really be dressed up or down.
For me comfort, style, design and versatility is very important while buying a pair of sneakers.
Who do you think in Bollywood will be a great fit for your sneakers?
Given that our designs are a bit conventional but then they are also avant-garde, Alia Bhatt comes to mind.
I think she can work around both spectrums -- from being extremely fashionable to a simple, girl-next-door.
What do you when you are not working?
I love to travel. It is my absolute stress-buster.
I'm a trained dancer so I really enjoy dancing.
What's your personal style? How often do you wear sneakers?
I always preferred to be around in heels, but now I live in sneakers.
It is not like I'm the quintessential sneaker girl, but I have become one after 7-10.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to launch their own brand?
Identify a product or service that you're truly passionate about.
Research, delegation, risk appetite, patience and resilience are some of key principles I abide by in my career.
Remember only teamwork will make your dream work.
So empower your employees to make mistakes and take decisions because you alone can never be enough to run a company successfully.
Future of 7-10?
Along with sneakers, we also do a lovely range of tees, which truly reflect the sneaker culture.
The next big step for 7-10 will be to migrate from a sneaker brand to a lifestyle one, and then slowly move into multi-store retail.
The collection can be purchased exclusively on www.7-10.in