Alum Ventures: Plaeto Shoes – Ravi Kallayil, PGP 1994
A simple letter from a ten year persuaded Ravi Kallayil to think about making world-class tech shoes more reachable for the masses. Though there were a lot of high end brands that were making excellent shoes, they were generally on in the buying limits for most children and parents. Hence after a decade long of efforts, research, sweat and sleepless nights Plaeto was born.
Shoes that were specially designed for the growing feet. Plaeto is truly a brand of shoes of the future. Made exclusively for the Indian crowd, they tick all the right boxes. Plaeto meets all demands required of good pair of shoes, there is a good chance if you have a pair of Plaeto, would wouldn’t be requiring any other.
In an exclusive interview with Ravi on his entrepreneurial journey.
Can you please tell us about yourself?
I’m an alumni of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. With over two decades of work experience, in footwear, apparel, engineering and consumer product industries across US, India, Africa and Nepal, my dream is to bring the joy of Play to every Indian child. My last stint was with Nike as Head of Ideation in Portland, US, which I quit last year to chase my dreams.
My early career experiences, while working with Unilever in Bihar and Orissa, gave me a peek into the high levels of aspiration among people in towns and villages of India, which inspired and led me to build a world-class product specifically designed for Indian children at an accessible price. That’s how Plaeto was born.
When I’m not thinking about work, I find happiness in music, scuba diving, Vipassana meditation and Toastmasters. I’m also actively involved with Maya Organic, a livelihood development program, and Ananya Trust, an alternative school for under-privileged children.
Can you please tell us about Plaeto shoes? What prompted you to be in this space?
Plaeto is a first-of-a-kind purpose-driven startup that designs and delivers world-class footwear for Indian children at an accessible price. Traditionally, there has been very little innovation or consumer-centric design built into footwear for Indian children. In fact, studies show that poorly designed footwear can lead to severe foot and body structure development issues for children during their formative years and later. Bad shoes also prevent children from taking up play, which can potentially lead to other health and emotional issues.
In 2011, when I was working with Nike, I received an unforgettable, handwritten letter from a 10-year-old boy requesting for a discount on a shoe, which sparked off my long quest to figure out the answer to a simple question, ‘How can we make a great shoe for Indian kids at an accessible price?’
After nearly a decade of development work, I realized that the only way to make it happen was to go ahead and build it. In 2019, in the middle of the worldwide upheaval caused by the pandemic, I gave up my ‘best job in the world’ with Nike Innovation in the US and relocated to India to become an entrepreneur.
As shoes are an integral part of Play, through Plaeto we offer shoes that take care of the needs of children’s growing feet, and through that encourage play because children are happiest when they play!
What differentiates Plaeto from other variants in the market?
Our products are designed by an ace team of engineers and experts with decades of experience in the footwear industry. Based on the research and deep insights from Plaeto’s Foot Morphology Research covering 500 Indian children, the shoes have been designed by the development teams in the industry from India, US and Italy. While we want to bring the joy of playback into children’s lives, all our products have been designed with a core focus on ‘foot health’ – an aspect that has never been spoken about or looked at while designing shoes for growing feet.
Secondly, Plaeto’s research found that 30% of Indian children are wearing the wrong shoe size because the foot is measured incorrectly. Foot measurement is not just about length; it is a combination of length, width and girth. Plaeto FitFinder, in partnership with FindMeaShoe, addresses this problem. A machine learning-powered artificial intelligence system, Plaeto Fitfinder maps out the child’s foot to correctly match the apt Plaeto shoe size.
In addition to caring for children’s feet and endeavours to promote a life filled with comfort, flexibility and play for the future citizens, Plaeto is one of the first companies to drive sustainability to the masses in the global footwear industry. Our shoes have a 50% lower carbon footprint as compared to the average athletic shoe and also use sustainable packaging solutions created in partnership with Faircraft Solutions, a non-profit women’s self-help group in rural Karnataka.
What kind of study went into designing Plaeto shoes for the Indian market?
We did an extensive study before venturing into the Indian market. Our research and conclusions were based on deep insights from Plaeto’s Foot Morphology Research covering 500 Indian children. As mentioned earlier, while traditionally, there has been very little innovation in this segment, even studies show that poorly designed footwear can lead to severe foot and body structure development issues for children during their formative years. Right from market research identifying the right component that goes into making world-class shoes, we spent almost a year piecing together every aspect of product development in the value chain.
Plaeto is also a sustainable brand, can you please tell us what measures the company is taking towards it?
Yes, sustainability is at the core of Plaeto’s value system. We promote a life filled with comfort, flexibility and play for the future citizens. Believing that children should inherit a better world, Plaeto has sustainability as its core tenant. We are a future-aware brand striving for a zero-waste manufacturing process with the goal of creating net-zero carbon footwear.
Plaeto is one of the first companies to drive sustainability to the masses in the global footwear industry, and have a 50% lower carbon footprint as compared to the average athletic shoe (validated by Simreka Consulting, Netherlands). We also use sustainable packaging solutions created in partnership with Faircraft Solutions, a non-profit women’s self-help group in rural Karnataka. To move the needle on planet impact, sustainable products have to be made more accessible to consumers and we are glad Plaeto is a demonstration of that idea.
Where are Plateo shoes available? Any specific platforms?