That is what has happened to Amir Rana and his Goldstar brand walking shoes. They have become so successful in Nepal that knockoffs called ‘Goodstar’ have started appearing in the market.
Unlike Nike or Reebocks which are pirated because they are expensive, it looks like Goldstar’s copy-cats want a slice of the pie that the shoe has carved for itself in Nepal’s domestic market because of its low price. It is a functional, no-frills shoe that is worn by everyone from peons to managers, from underground rebels to civil servants across Nepal.
Amir Rana, the charismatic 34-year-old entrepreneur who inherited the brand from his father, Noor Pratap Rana, says that after 11 years Goldstar has become a household name in Nepal. It was launched after a studied research of the market. Foot specialists and experts who had worked for various shoe companies were brought in as consultants to design the product and draw up a business plan. For a largely roadless and vertical country, a shoe had to be sturdy, light and cheap to succeed.
“We wanted shoes that people would not think twice about buying, whether because of price or quality. But we did not expect Goldstar to be such a huge hit,” admits Amir. But there was no looking back from the word go.
Goldstar is now branching out into the next big market: school shoes. The company is investing on marketing (they wouldn’t tell us how much). And Amir has done his homework on the demand from the proliferation of schools all over the country.
“Goldstar never needed much publicity,” says Rana, “marketing gizmos weren’t required then. It was more the ‘you need it, we have it’ sort of strategy. Today, we have to publicise our products to let the people know.”
Inevitably the school shoes will also be pirated. But Amir is prepared for that. “I don’t mind competition but I have reservations when it comes to copying our shoes and stealing our brand name. Why can’t people stick to healthy competition? Nike and Addidas are competitors, but they don’t pirate each other’s ideas,” he adds.
Though Goldstar did not start out to be a social brand, its cheap pricing and quality automatically launched the concept of social and corporate responsibility. “We started off like any other company-to make profit. But by pricing our quality products at minimum profit margins, we managed to fulfil our social responsibility while making profit,” says Amir.
Amir does not limit his sense of social responsibility to his company, he also personally sponsors scholarships for orphans and underprivileged children. He is also the treasurer of the Meritious Award established by his father.