SUMIT DHINGRA, Vice President & General Manager - India & South East Asia at Crocs, is confident that interesting collaborations and a digital-first marketing strategy will strengthen the Crocs connect with Gen Z and millennials, as the brand rides on people’s preference for health, wellness and comfort in COVID times to register its best year ever.
What have been the principal focus areas at Crocs India over the last two years that you have been at the company? How has the brand fared in India and globally?
The last few years have been phenomenal for the brand. Crocs has gone from strength-to-strength, breaking performance records almost every year; 2020 was our best year ever and we have started 2021 on a similar uptrend with Q1’21 being our best quarter ever. India’s performance has been no different. Fuelled by the strong brand momentum generated globally with great collaborations and a digital-first marketing strategy to connect with Gen Z and millennials, we have managed to navigate the troublesome COVID times unscathed. At the start of 2020, we also introduced Priyanka Chopra Jonas as our global brand ambassador, allowing us to create more relevance for the brand in India.
Amidst the pandemic, you launched your biggest store in India at Connaught Place in New Delhi in February. What made you pick this particular time?
When we were launching this store in February, offline stores had started to open and even the COVID-19 situation was withdrawing. The CP store has taken inspiration from the brand’s global concept and instantly transports you to a world of style as you walk through the vibrant and energetic store. We had both defensive and offensive strategies in place to counter the post-pandemic market conditions. While we took stringent measures to conserve cash flows, and to ensure safety of our employees, we also took this adversity as an opportunity to expand our retail footprints by negotiating better commercials at prime locations. We aim to launch more such global concept stores keeping our iconic classic clog and personalization at the forefront.
What are the current shoe trends that you see? Is people’s preference for athleisure and comfort footwear here to stay?
COVID-19 has transformed workplaces, our approach towards education, fashion, and trade is bound to dictate consumer behaviour. Athleisure was already a mega-trend pre-COVID and post COVID, the consumer preference towards health, wellness and comfort has further accelerated. We firmly believe that these trends are here to stay, and Crocs as a brand is perfectly positioned to tap into this demand. Another trend that is taking over the fashion and lifestyle choices is personalization. As consumers become more conscious and confident of expressing their individuality, in our Jibbitz shoe charms, we have the most seamless personalization tool possible, and this would further help us engage with the Gen Z consumer.
Social media is all agog about Balenciaga collaborating with Crocs to make the high-heeled version of Crocs shoes. What is your take on that? Is it available in India?
Though not available in India, Balenciaga Crocs 2.0 is a part of Balenciaga’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection. It will be available in bright green and in black, and looks like the typical Croc shoe, complete with rubber finish, plenty of holes and a strap back, but also features a high heel. Crocs has found great resonance with Gen Z worldwide, and such collaborations have helped us strengthen our Gen Z connect globally and in India. We have some interesting collaborations in the pipeline for this year and next. We’re super excited for what’s to come.
Tell us about the Crocs Cares initiative and some of your efforts there.
Crocs Cares is our philanthropic division which focuses on providing assistance to communities around us. India as a country has had to bear the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since COVID-19 first hit us, globally we have donated more than 9,10,000 pairs of footwear to frontline healthcare workers. In collaboration with our brand ambassador, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, we donated footwear to healthcare workers in government hospitals across Delhi and Mumbai early last year. When the second wave started taking its toll in the country, we reached out with a cash donation of Rs 25 lakh to the PM Cares fund for COVID response efforts of the government. Recently, we also donated $ 1,00,000 to support our brand ambassador Priyanka Chopra Jonas for her fund-raiser with Give India, focused on providing essential medical infrastructure such as oxygen concentrators and oxygen cylinders. Throughout the pandemic, we have tried to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees by extending facilities like additional leave, salary advances for unforeseen medical expenses and insurance cover for COVID treatment.
Going forward, what are your plans and priorities for Crocs India?
Globally, Crocs posted its most successful year to date in 2020, with $1.4 billion in revenue, up 12.6% from the same period of 2019 and 2021 is already off to a great start, re-affirming our confidence in our strategies. We are a digital-first organisation, and we will continue to invest here to get closer to our consumers. Our collaborations have been hugely successful, and you will see a lot more of these form us. Our over-arching brand campaign ‘Come As You Are’ is perfect representation of the democratic, inclusive brand that we are, and we will continue to create compelling story-telling opportunities within this. Clogs is our unique offering, and we foresee sandals as one of the biggest growth-opportunities, especially in India, which prefers open footwear. As a brand that thrives on innovation, we will continue to add more fun, colours and vibrancy to our clogs and sandals offerings. Our Jibbitz shoe charms - that allow consumers to show their unique style and creativity - is a product category that has just started gaining traction within our TG, and we foresee huge potential here, with both clogs and sandals.
What is one motto or rule that you always follow in life?
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. Learning is a life-long endeavour, having a learner’s mindset is key to success.
‘I learnt to play golf over the last year’
“I picked up golf over the last year. It is a socially distant game by design and something I wanted to learn for a long time. I like to play tennis and I love to cook over the weekends for my family. Apart from this, photography is an old hobby for which, unfortunately, I don't get much time now,” says Sumit Dhingra.