Company boss Sushanto Dey, a third-generation businessman, reveals how he ran the leading leather shoe company to establish a pan-Indian presence and win the hearts of the Chennaites.
By Debanjoli Nandi
When Sushanto Dey took over the reins of part of his family footwear and accessories business from his father Sekhar Dey, it was already a household name in eastern and northern India, including the History dates back to the 1950s, when a young Bengali man, through hard work and perseverance, realized his dream of making quality leather shoes accessible to the common man in newly independent India.
Sushanto’s grandfather, Suresh Chandra Dey, opened the first Sreeleathers store at Sakchi Market in Jamshedpur in 1952, a 100% âswadeshiâ success story that was the dream of a freedom fighter turned entrepreneur. The family business experienced tremendous growth over the following decades. However, like many family businesses, the family split in recent years and the management of individual stores changed hands in the following decades.
Born and raised in Jamshedpur, Sushanto Dey was groomed for an important role in the family business from an early age, and the rigors of running a successful brand in the highly competitive Indian retail space have forged the third generation businessman. A former Loyola School in Jamshedpur, Dey had started a business education in 1998, and after being armed with a business administration degree from Western Michigan University, USA, he took over the brand’s second store. at Bistupur in Jamshedpur. âMy grandfather’s ambition was to make quality shoes for the common man,â says Dey, who currently runs the show at the Sreeleathers showrooms in Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha. The brand’s probity is beyond doubt and is guided by the fundamental mantra of âWorld Class, Good Priceâ products for Indians.
Dey was greatly inspired by his father and grandfather who had remained true to their ethics and principles, and the challenge, for him, was to step out of his comfort zone of East India and d ‘extend the reach of the iconic brand beyond the known realms.
âWhen I graduated from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Business Administration and came back to India, my family wanted me to explore South India to expand. I started looking for options including Bangalore and Hyderabad. In Chennai, what I noticed was that a lot of people mostly walked barefoot. Wearing shoes was still not popular here. It struck me and saw it as an opportunity to develop my business. I started everything from scratch in Chennai. My idea was to get my shoes and accessories and sell them locally. My footwear items were an instant hit as there was no one in the same store at the time. People loved our products and kept coming back to shop with us. The first 2-3 years were our period of struggle, and there was no turning back, ârecalls Dey.
Dey had received extensive hands-on training in the practical aspects of running a business for 10 to 12 years before opening his first store on South Usman Road in Chennai in 2012.
âThe challenge was to make my brand stand out in a city where I had no presence before,â says Dey.
But what prompted him to choose Chennai among all the other major business centers in South India?
âChennai has a lot of potential when it comes to talent. Since this is a port city, I thought it might be a good idea to establish a base here. Chennai is also a great leather research center, and the technical know-how of the artisans is very high. There is also a lot of investment in machinery, âexplains the 43-year-old businessman.
Dey goes back in time and tells us how the Sreeleathers captured the hearts of the people of Tamil Nadu. âThe trip from Jamshedpur to Chennai was truly rewarding, and we are eternally grateful to the people of this beautiful state of Tamil Nadu, who graciously accepted us.
âEstablishing a business in Chennai has not been easy. Dey’s company not only fostered the culture of wearing leather shoes and sandals among ordinary people, but also played a key role in transforming the stationery market in the South Usman Road area of ââT Nagar. in a shoe and leather market, following the success of Sreeleathers, several competitors have emerged in the region.
Today there is a wide variety of quality footwear and accessories available at the T Nagar and Purasawalkam showrooms in Sreeleathers, meeting people’s demands.
âI have a simple policy. First, I buy a property and turn it into a showroom, and I did the same for our outlets in Chennai. This is the reason why the Covid could not affect us much. There was no pressure to pay the rent. And it also helps us to keep product prices low. We also encourage our franchise partners to own their property and not operate with borrowed money, âsays Dey, who has licensed many Sreeleathers franchisees across the country.
âNo matter the location, our brand will always strive to maintain the sanctity of our slogan of world-class products at the right price. We are inspired by my grandfather who believed in the service of his compatriots. We place a high priority on quality assurance while making sure the products are easy to use. Our products start anywhere between Rs. 170 and Rs. 200, and we welcome people of all ages and backgrounds. Our idea is to sell products at 50% of the market price, if not less, âDey shares, elaborating on the quality assurance process that underpins the company’s success.
“We strive to maintain the highest quality in all of our products. After manufacturing, the first batch of items first reaches our showroom in Bistupur (Jamshedpur) or T Nagar (Chennai) where we examine the quality. products. Once they pass the quality test, we order wholesale for all of our showrooms. Different companies contact us with their products. Either we buy the items directly or we design them to make the same ones. for us and deliver the products. “
Not being involved in direct manufacturing, the brand sources all of its products from all over India. âAll of our products are locally sourced. Our USP is our huge showrooms that offer an ocean of products. Footwear, Bags, Leather Belts, Leather Jackets, Suitcases, Wallets, Leather Wallet Bags, you name it, we have you covered. All your shoe and leather needs are met under one roof. Although we are best known as a shoe brand, 40% of our sales come from the accessories we sell, âDey smiles.
The boss of the iconic pan-Indian brand beams with pride as he talks about his young and dynamic team that supports the company in various states. âWe started in Chennai with 10 employees in our flagship store in T Nagar in 2012. Today, this store has a huge customer base made up of people from all walks of life. Many people from the northern states of India, who come to Tamil Nadu for medical purposes, bureaucrats and foreign nationals, who come to town for training and education, visit our store in T Nagar. About 30% of our customers at our T Nagar outlet include this large diaspora of people who come from outside Tamil Nadu. Our Purasawalkam outlet, which I founded in 2017, is mostly frequented by locals, ânotes Dey.
Dey aspires to further expand his brand’s presence across the country. âTalks are underway to enter additional market spaces in South India. Right now, we are focused on strengthening our digital presence which we believe will help us double our sales over the next two years. After being closed for three months during the first wave of Covid last year, we made a plan to overhaul our business and launched our website [https://sreeleathers.org.in/], and the response has been phenomenal to date. “We are currently in the midst of a hiring wave and are currently expanding our digital team in Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu,” said Dey, noting that his wife Purajini Dey is the spearhead of the brand’s e-commerce. business.
Speaking about the growth and sustainability plans for the next 5 years, Dey said: âConsidering the current rising cost economic situation, we would try to further streamline the administrative procedures of our businesses and work on reducing our overheads. I want to be even more aggressive in terms of the price of our products. I want to continue selling slippers for Rs. 200 for the next 10 years at least. “
Taking over a prestigious family business is no easy task, and Dey has been an inspiration to many young businessmen across the country. A father with big dreams in his eyes, Dey has already started to prepare his 14-year-old son, whom he wants to see as the future face of the brand.