In 2011, a 10-year-old child from Bangalore sent Ravi Kallayil a handwritten letter requesting a discount on a Nike shoe. The incident remained fresh in his mind. "How can we make a great shoe for Indian kids at an accessible price?" Kallyil asked himself. "I realised that the only way to make it happen was to go ahead and build it."
A decade later, he has launched a direct-to-consumer (D2C) foot-health focused brand aimed at designing and delivering ‘shoes for growing feet’ of Indian children, aged three to eighteen, along with co-founders--Sara Kilgore and Pavan Kareti. All the three founders have worked with global footwear brands such as Nike and Adidas till last year, and have christened their start-up, Plaeto.
Funded by angel investors, the footwear brand is based on "deep insights from Plaeto’s Foot Morphology Research covering thousands of hours of research on Indian kids’ feet", a statement issued by the company on Wednesday said. "The science-based shoes have been developed by an ace team of footwear designers and engineers from US, Italy and India," the company added.
Kallayil, CEO and co-founder of the Bengaluru-based Plaeto, said, “We saw an opportunity to bring innovative thinking to make the best-performing shoes designed for the Indian child. Additionally, as we built the shoe, we felt that it was our responsibility to do it in a way that leaves Planet Earth a better place for the kids to inherit.” added Kallayil.
According to Sara Kilgore, co-founder and Chief Design Officer, Plaeto (who heads the company’s product design centre at Portland, USA), “Kids not having access to quality/comfortable footwear prevents them from playing altogether, which can be detrimental to their physical and mental health."
Poorly-designed footwear can lead to structural foot and body development issues for children. Plaeto’s research reveals that 30% of Indian children are wearing the wrong shoe size. Plaeto Shoes, for instance, have a proprietary Fitliner that can be peeled off when the child grows out of the shoe. This feature gives "an additional half size and 2-3 more months of usage from the same product, without compromising on fit, comfort and performance".
The shoe also boasts of an asymmetrical lacing design which allows "maximum flexibility and avoids restrictive pressure from the lace by aligning with the natural bend of the foot". The company's proprietary Plaeto365 midsole "is responsive, supportive and provides comfort to feet even after a year of usage". Further, the company claims tha Plaeto shoes not just protect growing feet, but also reduce carbon footprint by using eco-friendly packaging (reusable cotton bags) created in partnership with Faircraft Creations--a non-profit women’s self-help group in rural Karnataka.
“Given my background in psychology, and my knowledge of footwear design, manufacturing and engineering, starting Plaeto was the obvious next step. The health of the planet and the health of individuals are both paramount. People everywhere deserve quality products so that they can live a good life. For Plaeto, this starts with footwear,” Sara explained.
"To move the needle on planet impact, sustainable products have to be made more accessible to consumers. Plaeto is a demonstration of that idea,” Bruce Kilgore, Plaeto’s Mentor, corroborated. He was the former head of innovation at Nike and the designer of AirForce1--the largest selling franchise footwear in the world. According to the company, Kilgore has designed and developed footwear for the world’s best athletes including Michael Jordan in his 35-year career.
Plaeto, meanwhile, aims to help at least 30% of the 300 million children in India through their product and programs. It also plans to expand to markets like Africa, "where accessibility to good footwear is a challenge". "The long-term strategy also includes propagating the idea of accessible sustainability to developed markets, such as Europe and the US," the company said in its statement.