Apex Footwear has launched its first international outlet, finding its niche in Kathmandu, the capital of the Himalayan Kingdom ofNepal.
The leading Bangladeshi footwear manufacturer, retailer and exporter, organised the launch of its "Venturini" store virtually on November 14.
"The next market will be in Asia. So, we started to enter the international market through the launch of the first outlet in Nepal," said Apex Footwear Chairman Syed Manzur Elahi, who has pioneered the rise of Bangladesh's footwear industry.
"We will explore the market in South Asia at first. Then we will go outside of this region within the next 10 years," he said.
Apex Footwear is conducting market studies in Sri Lanka and Bhutan in order to open outlets.
"Gradually we will open outlets in Myanmar and Thailand," said Elahi, who has also served as a former caretaker government adviser.
Customers in Nepal can now enjoy the exclusive collections offered by Venturini along with Apex's other private labels – Maverick, Sprint, Moochie, Nino Rossi, Sandra Rosa, and a wide range of accessories from internationally renowned brands Cross and Police, said Apex in a Facebook post.
Apex continues to expand its footprint beyond Bangladesh as a brand that truly is "Born in Bangladesh, worn around the world", read the post.
Apex came about on January 4, 1990, and is listed on both stock exchanges of Bangladesh. It has 260 sales points across the country.
The company is already present in all major export markets, albeit behind the scenes in the form of its 135 global customers, including major shoe retailers in Europe, North America and Japan.
Nowadays it lays claim to being the largest shoemaker in South Asia, responsible for approximately 15 per cent of the leather footwear export from Bangladesh.
The shoemaker's annual turnover in fiscal 2018-19 stood at Tk 1,580.88 crore.
However, it was not immune to the fallouts of the Covid-19 pandemic this year, with business falling by almost 40 per cent.
Its earnings per share came down to Tk 5.62 last fiscal year whereas it was Tk 10.91 in the previous fiscal year.
Despite all this, hope lies in the fact that its EPS doubled in the July-September quarter of 2020-21.
The footwear company's per-share net asset value stood at Tk 252 as on September 30. Its stocks closed at Tk 219.30, which is 0.09 per cent higher than that of the previous day.
"The response to our store and Venturini brand in Kathmandu has been very encouraging," said Managing Director Syed Nasim Manzur while talking to The Daily Star.
"Nepalese consumers have been exposed to global brands and appreciated our high-quality leather and workmanship."
"They are also keen on a sophisticated and engaging retail experience which we try to deliver. All in all, we are very proud and hopeful about our journey in the land of the Himalayas," he said.
Opening the first store in Kathmandu with a local distributor, it is clear that the Bangladeshi brand will go on to grab the Nepalese market, said Chief Executive Officer Rajan Pillai.
"It is quite a franchise, and we have plans to open two other outlets in Nepal with our distributor," he said.
Nepal does not have a local brand, but its growing middle class have an affinity for branded products as some sections of Nepalese consumers like to spend money behind the good quality, said Pillai.
Regarding the Covid-19-induced challenges, he said their drop in business resulted from the unattained sales targets of the two Eids this year.
However, business is gradually making a comeback and expectations are that the recovery will be possible within a short time, he said.
Apex also plans to launch outlets in Delhi and Mumbai in the first half of next year, he said, adding, "Not only in South Asia, but we are also looking to enter the markets of the Middle East."
However, Pillai has reservations on terming a footwear brand "one of the tops" solely based on its annual turnover.
There is no confusion that Apex is Bangladesh's top brand in terms of quality and it firmly believes it will go on to stand out as an international brand in the future, he said.