The last couple of years have been a strong indicator of the growth of the sneaker culture in India. “A lot of kids, aged 17-19 years are now making lakhs of rupees a month by reselling shoes — starting with Rs 20,000 they are now making Rs 3-10 lakh a month in profit from just selling sneakers,” said 23-year-old Vedant Lamba who is the founder of streetwear store Mainstreet Marketplace.

From street fashion to investment opportunities, the rise of sneaker culture in India has taken the nation by storm, captivating enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to build a business out of this piece of footwear.

The hype is so much so that by 2030, a global valuation of $30 billion is anticipated for the sneaker resale industry as per a report published in July 2021 by investment firm Cowen. The business involves buying limited edition shoes (called ‘copping’) at retail prices and reselling them for a higher price.

Vedant Lamba is one such entrepreneur who has created a thriving business in India’s sneaker reselling industry. Initially unfamiliar with luxury goods, Lamba’s journey began at the age of 16 when he discovered the captivating world of sneakers.

The now 23-year-old soon noticed a glaring absence in the sneaker reselling space in India. Lamba then launched Mainstreet TV, a YouTube channel, in 2017, which later evolved into the successful company — The Mainstreet Marketplace. Fast forward to 2023, the company has expanded to having two outlets in India. In fact, as per Lamba, Mainstreet Marketplace is on track to make Rs 100 crore worth of sales this fiscal year.

“We did about Rs 7 crore sales in our first fiscal year. Next month, we’ll do more than that. This fiscal year, we’re on track to do north of Rs 100 crore worth of sales,” said Lamba.

The company had announced last year that they had raised seed funding of an undisclosed amount. Further, Lamba told CNBC-TV18 that Mainstreet Marketplace recently closed another round with some venture capitalists.

Sneaker reselling market in India

In 2020, Google Trends indicated a 400 percent jump in India’s search for the term, sneakers, and a gigantic 800 percent jump in the search for Air Jordans. On Instagram, the terms ‘sneakerhead’ and ‘sneakers’ add up to 1.5-2.5 crore posts.

Yeezys, a fashion collaboration between Adidas and Kanye West, has seen 1.7 core posts.

In India, there’s no formal data to suggest the size of the ‘sneakerverse’ but companies like Campus, Bata, Metro and even Red Tape are all banking on the casualisation of footwear. Sports and athleisure itself is expected to be a Rs 21,000-22,000 crore market by 2025, as per a report by Technopak.

In 2020, sneaker resales was a $1-billion industry and this number is expected to jump to $5 billion by 2025. In India, the market is still nascent and growing, with the average ticket size estimated at Rs 15,000, which is over 20x the average selling price of other footwear in India.

As per market and consumer data experts Statista, revenue in the sneakers segment in India amounts to $2.6 billion in 2022 and the market is expected to grow annually by 11.58 percent. Among millennials and Gen Z audiences in India, the sneaker reselling sector has grown rapidly over the last four years and is now recognised as a growing alternative investment market.

The Growing Trend: Sneaker Reselling in India and Gen Z's Entrepreneurial Spirit

The sneakerheads: Rise of sneaker culture in Young India

As per Lamba, one of the greatest boosts to the sneaker culture in India is the sneaker’s status symbol appeal.

“These sneakers are status symbols. They’re not shoes, not footwear. And now what’s happening is it’s entering a sort of mainstream environment, where people of different age groups are identifying shoes as status symbols,” said Lamba.

So far, the target audience for the industry is the younger audience — the GenZ and the millennials. The younger generation — when it comes to sneakers — is interested in aligning with the community while the older generation invests in going to the depths of buying a sneaker, Lamba explained.

“The younger generation wants to be wearing an Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago or something of that sort. With the older generations, they’ll also get those, but then they want to go back and get a Nike x Louis Vuitton Air Force 1,” added Lamba.

Sneakers rose 2.5x in 2021 as an interest area on Tinder — a testament to Gen-Z’s increasing affinity for wearing sneakers to let a potential match know their ‘vibe.’

From Rs 1 lakh MRP to resale at Rs 10 Lakh

Lamba also mentioned that not all sneakers become a rage. To identify shoes that can become a rare asset and sell at a high price, marketplaces have a proper analysis system in place.

For instance, in the resale market, a Nike or Adidas sneaker with an MRP of Rs 20,000 can fetch as much as Rs 2 lakh.

“We sold a pair of Jordans, one Dior’s (Jordan x Dior Air Jordan 1) for about Rs 13 lakh back when they first came out. We’ve made about Rs 2 lakh in commission on that. And the retail price on that I think was about Rs 1.5 lakh. So, some kid bought the shoe for, I think Rs 7-8 lakh and then sold it to us for about Rs 10 or 11 lakh and then we sold it at Rs 13 lakh,” said Lamba.

Additionally, the hype is not just restricted to that as Indians are going to lengths to grab an exclusive pair. Lamba pointed out that in 2022, when Mainstreet Marketplace launched their Delhi store with an opening sale, about 400 people camped out outside the store overnight before it opened.

Sneaker resellers are creating a niche within the sneaker industry, similar to brokers who resell concert tickets for exorbitant prices. Now, sneakers are the latest asset class in town and Indians are very keenly sneaking into this culture.

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