Vidushi Rana is the Branding and Marketing Director of one of the leading footwear brands of Nepal, Goldstar Shoes. She has set a hallmark as an inspiring role model for many women and the thriving entrepreneurs of Nepal.
What major challenges and obstacles did you face while being the marketing director of the company?
Goldstar had never done any marketing or branding before, so it was like a clean canvas. They felt that there was no need to do it as the company was doing well, selling well. So the company thought that they really don’t need to do any advertising. It was more challenging because there were no benchmarks and there were no other footwear companies that had done advertising.
What is the significance of perseverance and consistency while venturing out into an entrepreneurial journey?
Both perseverance and consistency are extremely significant. If you don’t have perseverance, you won’t be able to do well. So, it is of utmost importance. Any entrepreneurial journey starts with your passion, your dream to do something in your life. If you want to make a difference, you need to have perseverance and consistency too.
Goldstar is almost a 40 years old company. It would not have been standing here after 40 years if it wasn't for the consistent efforts of the company to make durable, comfortable, and affordable shoes. Unless and until you are consistent, you will not be able to do well. Consistency has to be there all the time.
When you are in your entrepreneurial journey, if you believe in your ideas, dreams, and vision, you need to work hard towards that dream and of course, there will be many challenges, obstacles, and failures but you just have to be consistent and persevere then only you will succeed. Therefore, both are of utmost importance.
You have been at the front and center in rejuvenating Goldstar. What stimulated you to opt for changes, and how has the journey been so far?
First of all, I don’t take credit for being the front and center of rejuvenating Goldstar. Of course, it is a team effort. My forte has always been marketing and branding and something I strongly believed in. Goldstar, being a family-owned business, it was always doing well since before. So, they never believed in doing any kinds of advertisement and marketing. Spending money on branding was not something that they thought was important as everyone knew about “Hatthichaap Chappal” and the sales were also good.
But when I entered the company, I saw that there was a huge gap. The youth also knew about the brand but they had this concept that the shoes were for the only older generation. They knew Goldstar is Nepali shoe wear but youth were not interested in buying a pair for themselves as I think Nepali youth are very fashionable by nature. They wanted something fancy, fashionable, and stylish. And this made me realize that there was a gap. We thought we were not catering to the youth’s choice. So when I stepped into the company, I said that we needed to start making shoes for the younger generation. We couldn’t keep on making the shoes that we had been making for the past 30 years. We decided that there should be a change, so we brought the new designers. We have a lot of designers working day in and out. Every week, we have got at least 2 to 3 new designs of shoes for the youth.
With the new change, of course, the company had to put a lot of money to buy machinery, technology, fabric, and call upon the new designers and all these are responsible for rejuvenating Goldstar. And the next challenge for us was to make the youth aware and let the youth know that Goldstar is making shoes for the youth with the evolving time. Then, we started doing lots of advertising, branding, and marketing. And as we Nepalese love our country and we all come forward when it’s a matter related to Nepal. So luckily, Nepalese really loved our shoes and they understood that Goldstar shoes are bringing new shoes and rejuvenating and they are not just for the older generation.
We also began promoting on social media and people were interested and they started buying our shoes. It’s been exactly 5 years since I took charge of Goldstar in marketing and branding. My husband supported me and gave me time and budget for it. Luckily for me, I have a very good team and we worked together and the journey so far has been really fulfilling.
Would you share with us your marketing strategies that have made Goldstar what it is today?
The company realized that it’s been making the same type of shoes for the past 30 years and the youth of the country wanted something different so we invested in machinery, designs. And the second thing, people knew about the brand but they didn’t know where to buy the shoes. They were familiar with the nice and comfortable shoes made by Goldstar but they were wondering about the places for the purchase.
And then, when I went to the company, I said to the board that maybe we needed to open stores as the operation was done based on wholesale markets only and the idea of franchising stores came in. Obviously, the concept was very new and we were not sure if people would be ready to take such franchise stores. But we tried and we opened our first franchise store in Durbarmarg. It was a very big step for us but it did well. It’s been two and a half years now. Now, we have almost 80 franchise showrooms.
Recently, we initiated invitations in Insta for opening franchise showrooms outside Kathmandu. We got thousands of people wanting to open franchise stores for Goldstar. It's been heartwarming and overwhelming. That's the second thing that I am very proud of.
Of course, the next step was the active presence in social media as presence in social media platforms has been a must today. We wanted to be a step closer to our customers/consumers. We wanted to know what they feel, what their queries, comments, complaints, and compliments are not through the sales representative but the customers themselves. Once we got one comment that our shoes smelt bad and we got surprised so we began our research and found out that there was a problem in a certain consignment. Then we took out a whole lot and then stopped sending shoes of that consignment. We would have known that if the customer had not sent that comment.
We take every customers’ feedback very seriously in the company and then we work towards improving it. Now, our marketing team that I am very proud of, is gearing up to take a bigger leap in the international market. Now, we have franchise showrooms in Australia, Bahrain, and Qatar. We sent our first consignment to Japan a few weeks back. We are gearing up to send our consignment to Bhutan. So we are very happy with the progress and being recognized as the brand internationally.
How do you make sure the company maintains the standard as its brand value keeps increasing?
I think it’s the development of culture and structure in the company. Now, my husband and I are running the show. We are taking care of the business and the stakeholders, staff and workers are young by nature. They have zeal and passion. They are eager to work and they have new and fresh ideas. We make sure that all the workers in our company are aware of our mission, vision, and goals. They are all proud to be working for the local and Nepali brand. We are ready to swing internationally as well. We respect everybody's ideas. We give every one of them equal opportunities. All of them have a good education, good background.
In the past, it was different as there used to be hierarchy levels where even the chairman would never meet the supervisor probably. But in our case now, it’s a very open platform. Anybody can walk into our room to talk about different ideas, suggestions as long as it is for the betterment of the company. So, we changed the whole structure of the company.
What measures have you adopted as the marketing director to access greater reach in the international market?
The international market is hard not to crack. It’s very competitive. It’s easier said than done. It was my idea and my passion to go to the international market. But once we started exploring the international market and initiated our work, we realized it’s very difficult due to the vast competitive market. We are competing with China, Vietnam, and all other countries of the world. And there are also other internal challenges inside Nepal.
Our shoes are made with 60 to 70% components that are made in Nepal locally. From integration to the thread of lace, Nepali products are used. For making a shoe, 80 to 85 components are required and all the components are not found in Nepal so we have to import some of the parts as well. And there are unique challenges during import, so it’s not as easy as for other countries like China and Vietnam. Despite these challenges, Goldstar is making shoes that are of good quality, comfort that match the international standards. Going international may sound wow but it is very difficult. But we have stepped into it and we are definitely not going to step back now.
What future do you imagine for Goldstar as its marketing director?
I am a dreamer and have always been a dreamer. For me, I dream and imagine Goldstar to be present on all the seven continents and all around the world. I want Goldstar to be known as a trusted and number 1 brand. Eventually, we also want to go to other verticals like sportswear, clothing, and other things. So that’s the future that I imagine.
We still don't see many women in business and directorial positions. How do you suggest we change this?
I think the situation is changing with time and that’s not the case how it used to be before. Now girls are sent to schools and we all are aware. It gives me immense pleasure when I see young girls from rural areas wearing school uniforms and going to school. They are the future of our country. I think awareness has been widely swept over the country.
In the past days, there was the concept of not educating the girls and child marriage was also relevant. Slowly it’s been changing. It will not change overnight but I think I am happy with the progress. Also at Goldstar, I am very proud to say that we have more than 3000 workers and out of them, 60% of them are women. These women come from different backgrounds; marginalized groups, women who have never been to schools, who had never received any formal education, training, who are the victims of domestic abuse, and other diversified backgrounds. There is no disparity at all. They are given 3 months of proper intensive training along with salaries too. And after the training, we hire them and the salaries are equal for them as the male counterparts. So, I am proud to say that we are empowering women at Goldstar.
It really gives me immense pleasure to see these women rising to positions where they are able to even use the huge machines. Even if they switch to other organizations, they can use the skills and training they learned here. The retention rate is very good here and they are happy to be working with Goldstar in a clean and safe environment. Of course, women are better and hard workers and they work honestly, so it is changing. So, I think all of us need to make that change. Even if we can change one woman’s life, I think it makes a difference in totality.
What plans do you have to ensure that Goldstar never goes out of style? What is the USP of Goldstar?
We are in the fashion industry so the style keeps on changing. You buy something today and tomorrow you will want something else due to the fast-changing fashion. And you get a number of different items that come from all over the countries across the globe. We export so much and to be able to compete with standard international products, there is quite a variety of everything out there in the market. So, the style keeps on changing but the core of the company, I think it has to be intact and that’s how you never get out of style. The products should be made according to the core value. If we have to sustain for another 400 years, we should know how to ensure the values forever. So, I think that’s very important.
The USP of Goldstar has always been comfort, affordability, portability, and durability and now we have added one more proposition, i.e. fashionable.
Do you have any words of encouragement to working moms who are struggling to find the balance?
I know the challenges of working moms as I am a mom myself. So, I can understand the pain and the guilt that moms have but I think that one needs to realize that you are doing that work for your child and you are working hard so that you can fulfill your child’s dreams, aspirations, and education. So, for me, I think the mothers who leave their kids behind and work for them are the Unsung Heroes of our society. You are doing a great job. There’s nothing I can tell you because you are already doing great.
What would you advise aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Well, I would tell them to rise above all the societal barriers, chase their dreams, work hard, believe in themselves, manifest, read and learn. Listen to the success stories on the internet, ebooks, the hardships, and the people who made the difference. And just go make your own story. I think that’s what’s important. And yeah, all the best!