Bata, founded in 1894, is the world’s largest shoe manufacturer and holds the Guinness World Record in this category. The company has about 6,000 retail stores and more than 100,000 dealers and franchisees in more than 70 countries. The company is serving more than 1 million customers every day through these stores and franchises. Besides, there are a total of 27 production facilities for Bata in 20 countries of the world. The company, which started operations in Bangladesh in 1962, is currently the leading footwear manufacturer and retailer in the country with about 40 percent market share. At present, there are a total of 226 retail outlets in 63 districts of the country. In addition, Bata has two manufacturing facilities at Tongi and Dhamrai in Dhaka, where about 25 to 30 million pairs of shoes are manufactured every year. The company has about 30,000 employees worldwide besides Bangladesh.
History of Bata
Bata’s founder, Tomáš áš Baťa, was born in 1876 in the city of Zlín, Czech Republic, in a family of shoemakers. In 1891, at the age of 15, he started making shoes in Vienna-Döbling, but Tomáš failed. On August 24, 1894, T. & A. Baťa Shoe Company was established in Zlín, Czech Republic, with Tomáš and his two siblings, Antonín and Anna, with a joint capital of 600 Guldens. Although it did not have much commercial success for a few years since its establishment, in 1895 Tomáš áš took over the management and the company began to turn around again. When the company started production of Baťovka (canvas shoes) in 1897, it started witnessing success.
In 1900, the T. & A. Bata Company was commercially registered with Tomáš áš Bata at the helm of the company, leading it onwards. During that time, the number of employees of the company stood at 120. Five years later, Tomáš visited the US, UK, and Germany for a short time and visited the shoe factories there. From there, he returned to the country with an idea and set up a 3-story modern shoe-making factory. From 1906 to 1910, shoes were manufactured in five factories in Bata. The Employee House was built for the workers in 1912, keeping in mind that it would be easier for the workers to concentrate on their work if they resided near the factory. By that time, the company had more than 600 employees. In 1913, Bata started exporting its shoes to Germany. When the First World War broke out in 1914, orders for military boots began to grow. By 1918, the number of Bata workers had increased tenfold, and Bata opened its own stores in several other areas, including Zlín, Prague, Liberec, Vienna, and Pilsen. By this year, the Bata Company had grown to 4,000 employees. In the year of 1919, Bata’s first foreign factory named Bata Shoe and Leather Co. was established in Lynn, USA. Thomas went to India in 1925 to visit the new market.
At the end of World War II, the governments of Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, and Yugoslavia nationalized Bata. In 1945, Bata Development Limited, located in Great Britain, was declared the service headquarters of the Bata Shoe Organization. Since then, Bata has regained its growth and has begun expanding its business in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. From 1946 to 1960, Bata established 25 new factories worldwide and opened 1,700 Bata stores. By 1962, Bata had started production and active sales in 79 countries around the world. By 1964, Bata’s headquarters had moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In 1965 Bata made the Bata International Center in North York their new headquarters. The Bata family founded the Bata Shoe Museum Foundation in 1979 with the aim of establishing an international center for footwear research under the supervision of Thomas Bata’s wife, Sonja Bata. Bata was also the official sponsor of the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico and the 2014 Electronic Sports World Cup.
The company currently has 6,000 retail stores worldwide and 1 million dealers and franchisees. Bata also has an International Shoe Innovation Center in Padova, Italy, which serves 83 Bata and non-Bata companies around the world through personal training in the basic design and creative skills.
Bata Shoe started its journey in Bangladesh in 1962 by setting up a factory in East Pakistan. Bata has made a special contribution to the war of independence of Bangladesh. In 1970 William A. S. Ouderland, an Australian citizen was sent to Bangladesh as an Executive Director from Bata. Seeing the brutality of the invading forces on the night of March 25, he also joined the liberation war with the freedom fighters on behalf of Bangladesh. As an Australian citizen, he had a curfew pass for free movement in Dhaka city and had access all the way up to General Niazi & Governor Tikka Khan. At that time, he used such privileges to collect information for the freedom fighters about various operations of the Pakistan Army. Which he later conveyed to the Commander-in-Chief and other commanders of the Mukti Bahini. Besides, the Bata Tongi factory was a secret camp of freedom fighters during the war. William provided food, information, weapons, and medicine to the freedom fighters at this secret camp. In addition to this, he has provided the workers of this factory a place to stay and eat, as well as share the knowledge he earned being a soldier of World War II on medical education and war techniques to the freedom fighters. As a result, William Oderland was the only foreign freedom fighter to be awarded the title of “Bir Pratik.”
Due to the presence of Mukti Bahini camps during the war, many documents about Bata operations in the pre-war period were lost and little was known about the activities of the organization at that time. As a result, it took some time to re-establish Bata activities in war-torn Bangladesh.
In the 1970s, the company founded Bata Industrials, considering the need for safety footwear for industry professionals in Bangladesh, and remains to be the only manufacturer of industrial safety footwear in the country. Bata Shoe Company (Bangladesh) Ltd. was listed on the Dhaka Stock Exchange in 1985. Since its inception, the company has been introducing new brands. As a result of being long-lasting and comfortable, the brand has become very popular with consumers over time. In the 1990s, a number of companies like Pegasus and Afzal Shoes were competing against Bata. But the companies did not last long in the market. Bata’s popularity peaked in the 2000s.
The company launched Bata Industrial Shoes in January 2009. Besides, a total of 110,000 pairs of shoes were being manufactured daily in two manufacturing units at Tongi and Dhamrai. In the same year, Bata Shoe Company (Bangladesh) Limited was able to get the official clothing sponsor of the Bangladesh cricket team. Due to this association with the national cricket team, the brand was able to make a place in the minds of Bangladeshi buyers, and in 2014 Bangladesh Brand Forum was awarded Bata Best Brand Award as the No. 1 footwear in the country. They were able to win the title for the second time in 2016. Following in the footsteps of its success, Bangladesh’s No. 1 shoe manufacturer made Bangladesh’s best cricketer all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan the Bata Brand Ambassador in 2018.
The establishment of 21 new Bata stores including the flagship store at Dhanmondi took place in 2019. In the same year, Bata launched the first B-Sneakers store in Dhaka. At the end of the 3rd quarter of the year 2020, Bata’s revenue stood at 7.1 billion BDT. However, in the 58 years of Bata’s operation in Bangladesh, for the first time in 2020, Bata had to count the losses. Where in the first quarter of the year the profit was around 2.05 billion BDT, it dropped by about 84% in the second quarter down to 412.4 million BDT. In addition, during the Corona epidemic, Bata, in partnership with the local NGO “HeLO”, which works with the country’s healthcare professionals, prepared 7,000 PPEs. According to a report by The Business Standard, to help underprivileged children Bata collaborates with UCEP Bangladesh in 2020. In this collaboration, Bata donated food to 5,600 underprivileged children in October this year whenever more than the targeted amount of shoes were sold in any of the Bata stores in the country.
In June 2021, according to a report by Prothom Alo, Bata introduced the first completely eco-friendly shoes in the Bangladesh market on World Environment Day.
At present, Bata is selling multiple brands of shoes in Bangladesh. Among them are Bata, Ambassador, B-First, Ballerina, BubbleGummers, Comfit, Insolia, Marie Claire, North Star, Pata Pata, Power, Red Label, Weinbrenner.
In addition, the company is the exclusive partner distributor of world-renowned sportswear brands, Nike and Adidas in Bangladesh. In addition to these two brands, the company is also offering shoes of brands like Hush Puppies, Naturalizer, Scholl, and Skechers in the market of Bangladesh. In addition to shoes, the company also sells accessories such as ladies’ bags, backpacks, belts, wallets, and shoe shiners. The company also sells all of its products from Bata’s own e-commerce site and completes its delivery within 7 to 10 business days. According to a report by The Daily Star, Bata currently holds a 40 percent market share of Bangladesh’s footwear industry.
The company employs a total of 3,000 workers in two factories on a total of 64 acres of land in Tongi and Dhamrai, of which 1247 are permanent workers. These two factories produce about 25 to 30 million pairs of shoes a year.
From the beginning of its journey in Bangladesh, the company has been able to continue its activities successfully. In addition to winning the title of Bangladesh’s Superbrands twice in a row, it has been awarded as the country’s top revenue earning company in the leather and footwear categories for four consecutive years. In 2019, at the World HRD Congress, Bata was awarded the Best Employer Brand. The company is the top footwear brand in the country even after nearly 60 years of operation in Bangladesh. However, in the last few years, global brands like Woodland and Lotto have also started expanding in the Bangladeshi market. Domestic brands such as Apex and Walker are also constantly trying to position themselves in this market. Will Bata be able to maintain its sole dominance in the market in the future by competing with these domestic and foreign brands? Only time will tell us.