Prashanth S Devan failed to clear his seventh grade exams at school. Twice over. And there ended his student life. Badged as incompetent, he had to then live the life of a ‘loser’ in a family populated with highly educated elders.
“Even my younger sister moved to the 8th standard, while I was still stuck in the 7th grade. That’s when I decided to stop schooling,” Devan says, as we pull together chairs for a discussion around D’vano, India’s leading online portal for elevated shoes that help men gain height.
“I made my first million dollars at the age of 28, doing my below the line advertising and communication business in Dubai and Kazakhstan. I even tell my 19 year old daughter to stop her formal studies. It’s not that important,” he says.
His venture D’vano sells shoes with high heels that appear within, helping a man look 2.5-3.5 inches taller. Elevated shoes for men are a rage in the West and among Bollywood actors in India, but Devan is looking to make it a popular concept across the country. It presently sells on Snapdeal, Flipkart, Amazon and ShopClues.com.
The regular lot are priced between R5,000-8,000 while the high end ones are marked between R12,000-15,000. The shoes are like a footwear within a footwear, angled and crafted in a way that helps customers feel comfortable and confident, he says.
The catch is obvious. You can’t get away with wearing it for one day and use regular shoes the next. “Once you buy your first pair of elevated shoes, you are bought for life. Then you’ll need all kinds of footwear of the same height depending on the occasion. For this reason we are working on even gym shoes,”says Devan. He got the idea to start this business when he met a cobbler in Hong Kong. The cobbler was making finely crafted elevated shoes and the moment he held a pair in his hands, he knew this would make for a great business opportunity.
Historical figures like Hitler and Napolean were to known to have worn elevated shoes. “The average height of Indian men is around 5’5” and that of women is just about 5’0”. So you can see the market opportunity for such a product. People crave for that extra few inches of height and the confidence that it can give you is priceless,” he adds.
The Indian footwear market is valued at around R38,000 crore, with men garnering around 55% of it. The premium segment alone is worth R2,000 crore. D’vano has made available some 75 models across casual and formal categories and the shoes are made of artificial leather, with the company being a PETA approved brand. D’vano shoes are made from factories in Thailand, China and Chennai and soon Devan wants to sell them in markets like UK, US, Australia and UAE.
Internationally there are 15-16 such players in the market, but in India D’vano has had an early start. The company is looking to raise $10 million each in two rounds and is currently working towards it. The plan is to take the product internationally to all possible markets.
“I am used to seeking funds,” he says in jest. “When I was a nobody I had borrowed some $500 to set up my business but now I am seeking $20 million. That’s the difference. And I have also seen failure. Soon after I had become successful, I lost my bearings and expanded too soon in my below the line (BTL) advertising business, losing all my money in the process. I had to rebuild again.”
The whole idea is to keep trying, he says, without wasting time in getting everything organised before starting out. Once a start is made, one will find resources along the way to build one’s business and confidence, he believes. And, probably, wearing that shoes with an extra two inches may just be the tonic one needs.