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I read this morning that  94 Thomas Bata, died in Toronto on Monday evening. For many years of my life I believed Bata was an Indian company. Something to do with the fact that Bata rhymed with Tata but more than that since Bata has been my generation’s childhood companion. I grew up with the Bata School shoes with a rather special relationship with my white  PT shoes which I used to religiously wash in detergent every Sunday and then carefully beautify with a white shoe paint. My rather long big toe would sometimes win a battle with the shoe to dig a small hole ahead. And it used to be time for the next visit to the Bata shop in Alambagh. 

Thomas Bata who turned businessman at 18, was passionate about India so much so that he held the global board meeting of his group at Batanagar, West Bengal earlier this year and announced two world-class shoe factories in Bihar at Mokamehghat and Bataganj.
Bata’s Indian footing begain in 1931 when Thomas Bata arrived in Kolkatta via Karachi to set up his  first factory at Konanagar. Till then, footwear in India was produced as handicraft in cottage units. Bata went public in 1973 and changed to Bata India Limited with a professionally run management at the helm with the Canadian company still holding 51 % equity in the Indian operations.   

Thomas Bata was called Tom by his friends and he had tremendous love for India and its people. His contribution to our country can never be forgotten and India accounted for the maximum Bata sales. Bata gave us our first shoes.  In the 75 years Bata has  a 35 % market share in the organized footwear sector and 8.5 % of India’s total footwear market. Bata retails from 1,250 stores across the country. It sells over 45 million pairs of shoes every year with an annual sales turnover of more than 178 million USD ( Rs 8 billion).

The company’s brands include Hush Puppies, Dr. Scholls, North Star, Power, Marie Claire and Bubbleguymmers. The company’s latest is a joint venture real estate project with the Calcutta Metropolitan Group to develop 262 acres land in Batanagar into a world-class integrated township called Calcutta Riverside. 

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