Selling Sports Shoes For Under $10 Turned This Shoemaker Into India’s Newest Billionaire

During a turbulent week for India’s stock market, a new billionaire was created. Hari Krishan Agarwal, 66, the founder of Campus Activewear in Delhi, became a member of the three-comma club following the IPO of his sports shoe firm. Campus Activewear’s stock was offered at a 23 percent premium to its IPO price. Agarwal’s 74 percent ownership is now valued at about $1 billion.

In recent years, the $9 billion Indian footwear sector has produced three billionaires. Mukand Lal Dua and Ramesh Kumar Dua, of Delhi, manage the $350 million (revenue) Relaxo Footwear, which sells everything from casual sandals to formal shoes; and Rafique Malik, of Mumbai, who took his $107 million (revenue) Metro Brands public just in December of last year. (Though Metro was advertised with a 13% discount)

Agarwal’s foray into business started in 1983 when he developed the “Action” line of athletic shoes. In 2005, he introduced “Campus” athletic sneakers for less than $10. Campus was able to compete with worldwide companies such as Nike, Adidas, and Puma, who offer athletic shoes for over $35, due to its affordable price.

Raman Chawla, Campus’ chief financial officer, explains, “He exploited the enormous void in the Indian sports shoe industry in the pricing range of $10 to $40.”

According to a study published in April 2022 by the Gurgaon consulting company Technopak, Campus was India’s leading participant in the branded sports and athleisure (fusion of “athletic” and “leisure”) category in fiscal 2021, both in terms of value and quantity of shoes. It has a market share of 17 percent by value and approximately 25 percent by volume.

In 2021, Campus sold 13 million pairs, generating $94 million in sales. This was a minor decrease from the prior year’s revenue of $95 million owing to the pandemic, but sales are on the rise again: Campus reported $111 million in revenue for the nine months ending in December 2021.

As sports footwear is the fastest-growing subsegment within the footwear industry, analysts anticipate Campus to continue to profit. And they believe the demand for these shoes will continue to rise. Technopak reports that the per capita expenditure on athleisure and sports items in India is barely $1.9. This compares to $33.8 in China and $227.3 in the United States.

This development potential attracted the private equity company TPG and the billionaire who runs electrical products manufacturer Havells, Anil Rai Gupta. Even after selling a portion of their shares in the IPO, they continue to maintain holdings of 7.6 percent and 2 percent, respectively, in Campus.

Sneha Poddar, a research analyst at the Mumbai investment firm Motilal Oswal, asserts, “Athleisure is a much under-penetrated industry.” Additionally, the Campus is expanding its geographic reach. Campus’s primary market comprises smaller locations in northern and eastern India, but the company is currently focusing on larger metros and creating a national presence. “In addition, it expands the product line from athletic shoes to casual shoes,” explains Poddar.

Despite becoming public, Campus remains a family enterprise. Nikhil Aggarwal, the 37-year-old son of Agarwal and an industrial engineer from Purdue University, began working at Campus in 2008 and was promoted to CEO nine years later. Prerna, the wife of Nikhil, is the chief marketing officer. Vinod Agarwal, the wife of the company’s founder, led supply chain efforts and a network of fabricators for Campus’ sports shoes until September 2021.

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