For today’s biz story we are focusing on a slipper company, more specifically Mahabis. These guys have re-invented the slipper as we know it, taking Scandinavian, Indian and Moroccan design principals to create a product that is both stylish and practical, and can be worn both inside and outside the home with the use of detachable soles.Clever! Mahabis founder Ankur Shah started his professional career working under the endorsement of the United Nations and the Dalai Lama before becoming a barrister and practising at a leading criminal chambers. He then turned successful entrepreneur to launch Mahabis and get this his brand has become one of the fastest growing footwear brands selling over 10,000 pairs a month more than Crocs and Ugg even! Ankur had a global vision from the get go for his brand which ties in perfectly with my business columns in the afternoon where I am forever banging on about thinking big and planning ahead.
I drilled down a bit further into Ankur’s business and it makes for fascinating reading!
What led you to start this venture?
I discovered that whilst a number of other markets had great brands that had been around for decades, the slipper market, which is some $7bn strong, lacked a brand I could identify with and lacked a product that I thought I could relate to. We love brands like Havaianas, who’ve been around for 70 years. So I thought, you know what, I’ve got some capital and a little bit of time, so I set out to try and create the ultimate slipper, with a lifestyle brand that captured the essence of what a slipper represents: downtime.
What is a typical day like?
Everyday at Mahabis is different. As the business runs 24/7 and sells to over 50 countries, on a day-to-day basis we are constantly finding different ways to manage the logistics of running a global business from remote locations. We’re continually evolving as a company- testing new products, connecting with new people, visiting suppliers across Europe, and expanding into new markets- no working day is the same. Yet whilst the business is fast paced, and our customers purchase around the clock, the work culture at Mahabis is pretty relaxed and far from the standard 9-5. We have a four-day workweek, and in addition to our London office, our team are spread as far as the Dominican Republic and Australia.
Any hurdles along the way?
Many. Possibly too many to list. We went from 3D printing to full scale manufacturing in around a year – it was fun, but hurdles almost became the norm. The road was a fun one, and we’ve had to scale very quickly, we sold our 10,000th pair in only a handful of months and far earlier than we anticipated. This put us as a faster growing brand than TOMs and Crocs, and as one of the fastest growing footwear brands of the last two decades. Naturally, this came with some interesting hurdles and new challenges- everything from manufacturing to reaching and talking to new customers. We’re now selling across the globe and so our staff are learning Mandarin as well as Hindi. From day one we set to be global with a universal aesthetic, and we’re keen to keep that central to who we are.
How do you get your work seen by customers and retailers is it via tradeshows or advertising?
We actually set out to be an online-only brand, and have turned down retailers and distributors for the moment. We wanted to connect with our customers so that they could engage with Mahabis slippers from the outset and online seemed the best way to do that. So the bulk of our outreach as been through word-of-mouth and various digital platforms.
Any tips for people starting out?
Have an immense amount of fun.
We’re focussed on continuing to expand globally and have a number of new products we’re working on, which we’re incredibly excited about, all attempting to further our aim of bringing downtime to the centre of people’s lives.
Thank you so much Ankur for taking the time to answer my questions. Back later with my Biz Column.