FOCUS: A technologist’s tale of direct-to-consumer fashion-tech marrying leather products to redefine artisan luxury. With no middleman and zero dead inventory, the founder, Ambud Sharma’s vision is to put Indian leather artisanship on the world map
The story began in 2015, as an experiment to understand how luxury brands were positioned in the new digital world of luxury e-commerce. With multiple challenges, Mr. Ambud Sharma — a technologist, gave up his high paying tech job and shifted base to India to research and develop a digital platform in men’s leather fashion space — with materials sourced from parts of the world that specialise in those materials. For instance, the superior quality rare crust leather is imported from Argentina and Italy, leather soles from Brazil and Turkey, metal accessories from Taiwan and soft inner leather from France.
Being a tech expert himself, Mr. Sharma carefully developed a platform that had a brilliant user experience for the end consumer and robust backend that could support the analytical and logistical needs of seamlessly running a just-in-time e-commerce business. He developed a team to source and manufacture shoes, bags, wallets, belts and accessories in luxury space and named the label ‘ESCARO ROYALE’. The name of the brand comes from a small commune in France named ‘Escaro’ that is known for its handcrafted products. ‘Royale’ was suffixed to provide an essence of regality and impeccable craftsmanship.
With a hundred percent direct-to-consumer model, and “no middleman” approach — Escaro Royale provided an unparalleled user experience to the end consumers at thirty percent the price of the European competitors. The company was constantly in touch with the consumers directly and not through retailers or distributors (middlemen). Due to this direct connection, all feedback flowed seamlessly to the company; allowing it to adjust rapidly based on customer feedback. The designs offered were tailored to the Indian audience — making the brand an instant hit.
To up the stakes even further, they incorporated the coveted Goodyear Welted, Blake stitched and hand-patina finish leather goods in its product line. These super premium offerings convinced the customers to happily pay a premium price as compared to the generally available men’s leather products.
With Make in India gaining popularity, the brand was seen as India’s answer to the world’s luxury brands where customers now didn’t have to pay upwards of US$ 500 to get the products they typically bought during their international trips. From a consumers’ standpoint — they were getting world-class products made with traditional European hand making processes, but from an Indian company.
With huge success in the Indian market in 2018-19, Ambud saw the appalling condition of shoemaker artisans in India. They were underappreciated and underpaid in comparison to other artisan classes like the handloom, jewellery and handicrafts. Noticing a shortage of skilled workers, he started hiring artisans on respectable salaries and reinvesting profits to provide a better lifestyle and economic opportunity to the people who were the backbone of Escaro Royale.
Additionally, he also started a design lab to train these traditional artisans and equip them with modern software and tools for footwear design and development. This initiative is his dream to bring a revolution on how a shoe industry operates in general. Currently, most of Escaro Royale’s products are designed in Milan (Italy), and manufactured in India.
The brand is currently working on investing and adopting machine learning and artificial intelligence to streamline the consumer experience further. Mr. Sharma deployed blockchain technology to streamline the supply chain since most of the orders were fulfilled with a ‘Just in time’ approach. This means that the manufacturing of a product starts only when an order is received and thus, there is zero dead inventory. Retaining it’s premiumness, each customer gets a freshly made product that lasts longer and increases repeat customer rate. The product is delivered to the customer within 7 days in India and 14 days outside India.
Apart from shoes, bags, wallets and belts, Mr. Sharma has piloted a project in men’s accessory range that includes cufflinks and tie pins available on the website. He is keen on moving towards hand-made metal and silk accessories, and developing a different class of pure gold accessories that carry an asset value and are fashionable at the same time.
Financially, bootstrapped with his own money and investments from family and friends, the first office expansion was executed in August 2020 with the launch of the American Company Escaro Royale Luxury LLC located in New York, US. The company has profitably done $2 million in revenues and aims to do $10 million in revenues by 2023. The company is now approaching various private equity funds to fuel its growth.
In these testing times, Escaro Royale has noticed an uptick of fifteen percent in digital sales compared to last year and continue to see huge opportunities in the coming years. The company is now focussed on the fast luxury concept where they launch 16-20 designs every 30 days. With this “plug and play” platform for luxury products, they aim to level up to 20 designs every 14 days.
KNOW YOUR LEATHER
Crust Leather: It’s raw leather material, usually vegetable tanned, that can be used both in the natural “nude” version or hand-dyed for creating patterns and colorful effects.
Full Grain Leather: The best quality and highest grade leather. It’s the entire grain layer, without any removal of the surface. This type does not wear out; it develops a natural patina during its useful lifetime.
Goodyear Welting: A 19th century British method, where several layers of leather and cork are sewn/bonded to form the base of a shoe. The base is then sewn on to the upper portion of the shoe.
Blake Stitching: Traditional shoe-making method primarily of artisan families from Italy and Spain, where the outer sole is directly stitched to the insole.
Hand Patina: Patina is the multi-shade dark effect created on leather after prolonged use over time — generally due to moisture or skin oil — and mostly on the edges.
Jawaha Technique: Three centuries old technique, where leather is processed from raw hides to the finishing of the final product. Each task is accomplished by hand using traditional tools.
Genuine Leather: The LOWEST grade of leather made out of several layers of leftover leather (or leather from unwanted parts) bonded together and painted to look like better quality leather.