he story of Bata shoes began in 1894 in what is now known as the Czech Republic. In Zlín, Moravia, the Bat´a family decided to break from the tradition of a single cobbler lovingly crafting shoes in a tiny a shop, and instead opt for forming a shoe manufacturing organization. This was not uncharted territory for the Bat´as. Each generation of the family had handcrafted shoes over hundreds of years. What was new was the introduction of machinery and organization to offer the consumer greater choice, lower prices, and other benefits associated with their scale of business.
The company introduced innovative practices never seen before like a five-day work week and fixed schedules. Initially, the small company of only 10 full-time employees faced financial difficulties. Their solution was to offer a shoe made from canvas rather than leather. In 1897, the Batovka debuted. It was wildly successful and pulled the company out of their initial rough patch.
The Bat´as were moved by the business strategies they learned of abroad and eagerly implemented them in their own practices, however, they did this on a larger and deeper scale. They made workers more involved in the profits of the company with various incentives for their production performance. They also built housing, schools, medical facilities, recreational facilities, essential goods suppliers, and more near their factories. The price of access to these facilities, in areas known as Batavilles, was reduced for all employees.
The photo above shows the Bataville of Zlin. Zlin was once a humble town, but Thomas J. Bat´a decided to enrich his community and business in one bold strategy. The communities still stand today, and many find them desirable. They feature handsome structures, healthy distributions of lush greenery, and a layout designed with the spirit of community in focus. This was quite progressive, not only for the time period, but also for business in general; which is usually slanted against employee quality of life.
The company’s growth experienced a huge spike when they became a military supplier during WWI. They were asked to produce over 50,000 pairs of shoes for the Austro-Hungarian army, and filling that order cemented the Bata brand as a quality and trusted maker of footwear.
After the war, Bata shoes suffered under the weight of a tough political and economic climate. They adapted and solved their problem by halving shoe prices, and worker pay. They also reduced food and other prices at the suppliers they built for employees and their families. This radical decision caused another spike in Bata popularity and sales. Eventually, affordable shoes dominated the market.
What began as a humble company of 10 full-time employees grew to over 100 branch locations by the early 20s. Bata had expanded into over 50 countries by the 30s. One of Bata’s first companies established outside of the Czech Republic was its Calcutta office.
Today, Bata serves over one million customers daily, and remains on the bleeding edge of footwear engineering and fashion. They combine the practical, aesthetic, and financial aspects of consumer demand.
The Bata shoe is associated with modern and classic style, comfort, and function, which is all offered at an affordable price. In regions like India, Bata enjoys popularity in both urban and rural markets.
The Bat´a product line offers every possible style and type of footwear from womens fashion to industrial shoes. Their most popular products are those designed mainly for durability and affordability, but they also offer premium options.
The affordability of Bata is fueled by strong focus on key areas such as market analytics and market delivery cost. All international markets are rigorously studied before entry. This includes analysis of culture, responsiveness, economic state, trends, and much more. Bata also manages price through limiting promotion.
This strategy is designed to reduce expenses and deliver that benefit to the consumer. This practice is also a testament to the quality of Bata product and the faith of Bata in their product because they remain a strong brand primarily from word-of-mouth; furthermore, they have also developed a reputation for having durable products through customers sharing their experiences.
These practices give Bata distinction in a marketplace that often drives price down through socially irresponsible business practices, low-quality materials, low-quality production, and poor market research. The typical practice of many businesses is to become popular, retain customers with heavy marketing, and then fluff profits by cheating customers (and employees) out of a well-made or viable product (or decent job).
In the image above, you will see a 12-year old boy, who should be in school, sewing Nike soccer balls for a mere 0.60 cents a day. Nike has developed a reputation for irresponsibly contracting for production of its footwear and other products. Though the company is aware that the workers who fuel their 80 billion-dollar business are being abused (physically, sexually, mentally, and economically), they claim they are powerless to stop it. If Bata is aware of poor working conditions at any of their facilities, they respond with appropriate internal action. If this occurs with those they contract with, they end the contract. A recent example of this is Bata severing ties with an operation in India that refused to give workers a proper raise and that attempted to stop them from forming a union.
In a fiercely competitive market, Bata continues to thrive through innovative practices, commitment to delivering value to customers, and social responsibility to employees. This has earned them the status of the most trusted footwear brand in India. The Brand Trust Report of 2015 officially lists Bata as the number one trusted brand in the footwear category.
The report is a study of over ten thousand important brands in India across every major city and across all categories. It is evidence that in the decades since the establishment of the very first Bata facility in India, Bata has continued to serve India well.