Start-up Circle: Harshwardhan Patwardhan, Founder of Chappers

Harshwardhan Patwardhan, Founder of Chappers, shared insights about his experience of participating in Shark Tank. Read here to know more.

Manisha Sharma
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Harshwardhan Patwardhan

Chappers is a path-breaking brand in the Indian men’s footwear industry, founded by Harshwardhan Patwardhan. Initially launched with the vision of taking the iconic Kolhapuri chappals to the world, Chappers has rapidly evolved as a brand that is solving various shortcomings related to the men’s footwear sector in India. Traditionally, there is a severe lack of footwear colors for men, and only brown, black, and grey dominate the spectrum.


There are almost no options for men who wish to go beyond these shades in the footwear industry. Getting bespoke shoes made as per personal color and design preferences proves to be quite expensive and usually beyond the reach of the general public. Chappers is aiming to change this situation by becoming the brand that will provide good-quality custom footwear to men, at the right price.

Harshwardhan Patwardhan is the dynamic founder of the footwear label, Chappers. As a path-breaking brand in the Indian footwear industry, Chappers is making waves through its innovative designs, unmatched customisation options, and technology-driven in-store retail experience. Harshwardhan is a quintessential Indian and true to his Maharashtrian roots, he had an obsession for Kolhapuri Chappals.

In an exclusive interview with Ciol, Harshwardhan Patwardhan, Founder of Chappers, shared insights about his experience of participating in Shark Tank. How the company has pioneered India's first virtual footwear customizer, empowering customers to craft personalized designs through simple steps on a touch kiosk.


Tell us about Chappers and your offerings. Tell us about the team.

Chappers is a pioneering custom footwear label. In an era where international brands command the spotlight and traditional ethnic footwear like Kolhapuris struggle to gain traction, Chappers spearheads a transformative shift. The brand name 'Chappers' cleverly combines 'Chappal' (Hindi for sandals) and 'slippers,' symbolizing its innovative approach. Using advanced AR technology, Chappers offers customization options to individuals keen on expressing their unique style. Their diverse range includes everything from Kolhapuri Chappals to Belgian loafers, mojris, and Peshawari sandals, catering to both men and women. Traditionally, Kolhapuri footwear, with its limited color choices, design variations, and use of hard leather, primarily appealed to male customers in Maharashtra.

However, Chappers' ingenious design fusion, blending Kolhapuri chappals with loafers, has resulted in a vibrant and customizable product range that can be tailored to individual preferences and delivered across India and even to select international destinations. Chappers is a profitable brand boasting an annual turnover exceeding Rs 4 crore, with four exclusive stores in Pune, one franchise outlet in Nashik, and a presence in an additional 20 retail partner locations, all within Maharashtra. Notably, the company has pioneered India's first virtual footwear customizer, empowering customers to craft personalized designs through simple steps on a touch kiosk.


What is unique about your label brand?

In a typical footwear purchase experience, you walk into a store, see shoes lined up on display walls, and choose the right size. While this process allows customers to choose from the stock, it has no scope for customization. You might see a design that you love, but maybe you would have loved to add red or neon elements to it or wanted it in a different color and material altogether. Thus, the purchase is more about making do with the footwear closer to, but not exactly, what you wanted. It is this limitation that Chappers has eliminated through its technology-driven approach, which is scalable and profitable due to the capabilities of mass customizations.

When you walk into a Chappers store, there is a big touch-screen display. The screen would have thousands of pairs of designs for chappals and different types of shoes for you to choose from. After you find a design to your liking, you click on it, and the proprietary AR-driven software of Chappers offers a mind-blowing repertoire of over 10,000 possible customizations in terms of materials, accessories, colors, etc.


Chappers provides full support for customers to add an accessory of their choice or completely own the shoe's look by adding their initials to the design. Once the design is locked, the AR takes over, and you get to see the look and feel of the product with India's first 4K virtual customization experience. Then you can order, and the sales staff takes foot measurements to ensure absolute fit. You can go home, and within 48 hours, hand-crafted footwear, exactly how you visualized and wanted it to be, is delivered to your doorstep within 2 to 3 days from order placement. The entire process is technology-driven, smooth, convenient, quick, and customizable.

As you have been to Shark Tank, kindly share your experience at Shark Tank.

The experience at Shark Tank was a major learning journey. It provided valuable insights into effectively responding to the Sharks' questions and understanding what they seek in an entrepreneur. Despite the grueling process, stepping onto the Shark Tank stage was a source of great joy and excitement.


Kindly give us some insight about How to prepare for Shark Tank.

Preparing for Shark Tank demands a meticulous approach, much like preparing for a competitive exam. The extensive registration process includes multiple selection stages, such as submitting videos, participating in interviews, and pitching to the team at Sony. This rigorous process helps entrepreneurs refine their pitches and ideas to increase their chances of success on the show.

Authenticity and genuineness: The key to success on Shark Tank lies in being authentic and genuine. Trying to fake information is a red flag, as all participants are expected to be knowledgeable about their market and product. A remarkable product and a clear vision are essential for making a solid impression.


Believe in your proposition: Having complete faith in your business proposition and your ability to sell it to the Sharks is crucial. Confidence in your idea can make a significant difference in your pitch.

Take control and create impact: It is essential to take control of the pitch from the early stages and positively impact the Sharks. As the founder, you should be the center stage, owning the brand story and creating momentum in your presentation.

Make the most of the opportunity: Pitching on Shark Tank is a make-or-break opportunity. You can transform your entrepreneurial journey in that hour, so make it count.


Master your numbers and financials: A firm grasp of numbers and financials is essential. Sharks demand strong financial acumen, and shortcomings in this area can derail your opportunity. Being well-prepared and honest when facing pointed financial questions is crucial. Faking information can lead to unfavorable outcomes.

Transparency: Entrepreneurs must be transparent about their knowledge and confidently acknowledge what they need to verify or find out. Sharks may ask about any aspect of the business during the interaction, so being truthful and prepared with all relevant numbers is vital.

Rehearse and master the numbers: Rehearsing and mastering the numbers beforehand is essential to succeed in your pitch. This ensures you can confidently respond to financial inquiries and present your business in the best possible light.

What are some common mistakes entrepreneurs make when pitching on Shark Tank?

Entrepreneurs often face intense pressure when pitching on Shark Tank, which can lead to various common mistakes.

Overvaluation of their business: Entrepreneurs may overestimate the value of their business, leading to unrealistic equity offers to the Sharks. This can be a major turn-off for the investors. Exaggerating sales projections or market potential can erode the Sharks' trust. It is important to be realistic in your revenue forecasts.

Lack of preparation: Inadequate preparation, especially regarding financials and numbers, can hurt a pitch. Entrepreneurs should have a thorough understanding of their business metrics and financial projections. Fumbling over financial details or not having answers to financial questions can be detrimental.

Poor communication: Failing to communicate their business idea, product, or market opportunity clearly and concisely can confuse the Sharks and weaken the pitch. Confidence is key; entrepreneurs who appear unsure of themselves or their business can make the Sharks hesitant to invest.

Inflexibility: Being too rigid in negotiations can be a mistake. Entrepreneurs who are unwilling to negotiate or make concessions may lose out on a potential deal.

Failure to differentiate: Entrepreneurs should highlight what makes their product or business unique and why it stands out in the market. Failing to do so can make their pitch less compelling. Sharks often ask probing questions, and entrepreneurs who are not well-prepared or evade questions may come across as unreliable or untrustworthy.

Ignoring feedback: When the Sharks provide feedback or suggest changes, some entrepreneurs may resist or dismiss it. Being open to constructive criticism and willing to adapt can be a positive trait.

Neglecting the human element: Focusing solely on the product or business and not connecting with the Sharks personally can be a missed opportunity. Building rapport can make a difference in securing a deal.

According to you, how important is it to clearly understand the numbers and financials when pitching on Shark Tank?

Understanding the numbers and financials is paramount when pitching on Shark Tank. It is not merely a facet of the pitch but the foundation upon which the entire business proposition stands. The Sharks, experienced investors with a discerning eye for profitable ventures, scrutinize these financials to assess the business's credibility, viability, and growth potential. Clear financials are not just a matter of credibility; they are the linchpin of negotiation, influencing everything from valuation to return on investment. They provide insight into profitability, risk mitigation, and long-term strategy. Moreover, transparent financials underscore honesty and trustworthiness, vital in building rapport with the Sharks. In essence, understanding the numbers and financials is not just about speaking the language of business; it is about demonstrating a profound grasp of the business's past, present, and future, which can ultimately determine whether a Shark decides to take the plunge and invest.

Tell us about your learning and the insights you get there.

Participating in Shark Tank helped me understand the Sharks' remarkable business acumen and intuition. These seasoned investors possess a sharp ability to spot potential success and detect any uncertainty in entrepreneurs. To capture their interest, one must be confident, persuasive, and grasp the art of sales and negotiation. The benefit of appearing on the show is that the Sharks offer invaluable guidance on areas that require improvement, where to concentrate efforts, and how to channel resources effectively. If the Sharks decide to invest their time and capital in the venture, it validates the entrepreneur's skills and vision.