Why do iPhones have such a huge craze? Why do Apple stores experience long wait times? Why is it that iPhones are highly pre-ordered right after the launch event and go out of stock?
You see, some people buy iPhones for the status symbol and class. Some buy them for the high-tech features while others for the feel of it.
I say this because I’ve been through this journey. I decided to get an iPhone in 2016 when I was still in college. Reason? Status symbol.
My friend had received an iPhone as her birthday gift from her family. Seeing this, I wanted one too but thanks to my brother convincing me to buy one with my own money, I had to wait.
So I waited and bought my first iPhone in 2017. This time, the reason was to prove that I was capable of buying things I liked, on my own but after this, I didn’t need any reason.
Once I started using an iPhone, I fell in love with the design and experience, so much so that fast forward to 2023, I’ve continued using iPhones, and bought Macbook Pro, Apple Watch and AirPods.
Now, reader, I say this not to brag but only to genuinely convey the kind of effect a brand or product can have on people and Nike Air Jordans became one such product in the 80s.
The Sneakers Swag
From street basketball to hip-hop, sneaker culture was always peeping out from behind the tree in the 70s, ready to boom. It finally rose in 1985 when Nike signed with Michael Jordan.
With the launch of Nike Air Jordan 1, millennials began to look for rare and premium sneakers, to be able to stand out from others.
Sneaker Collectors (Sneakerheads) came into existence, trying to get their hands on rare and premium sneaker collections and Ritesh Bajaj, was one of them.
From Sneaker Collector to Reseller
Just like most sneaker collectors, Ritesh also loved collecting limited edition sneakers but what started out as a hobby turned into a business idea during COVID.
Ritesh realised that the sneaker reselling market was huge, worth nearly $72.2 billion (expected to reach $100 billion by 2026) and saw this as a potential to start his own business.
“The market was huge and during COVID, people were at home. They didn't really know what to do other than spend money.”
As the 2nd GEN of Bajaj clothing, Ritesh had been part of his 35-year-old family business for 7 years and his sneaker reselling idea only ignited the entrepreneurship spark inside him.
This is when TheNorthStreet was born.
Ritesh who initially used to buy 2-3 pairs of very limited edition sneakers out of passion now knew that such sneakers globally have a higher demand than the supply and go in the aftermarket at a premium.
For example, depending on the demand and supply, a pair of limited edition sneakers that cost 10k can sell anywhere between 10k upwards to 1 lac.
Having realised this along with the market gap in India such as the authenticity of sellers and long waiting time, Ritesh knew who his audience was and there began his reselling journey.
Entering the Sneakerheads Community
Ritesh’s passion for limited edition sneakers proved to be a blessing in disguise as he was already a part of Sneakerheads communities, one being on WhatsApp.
This meant that he’d frequently notice people flaunting pictures of their new pair of shoes, and discussing where they got ‘em from.
Additionally, Ritesh also saw a part of the community asking those sharing pictures if they’d be open to selling it, even if it cost extra, literally going like —
“Seeing this demand, I figured out that one can actually make money out of reselling rare sneakers.”
TheNorthStreet - Fostering Sneaker Culture in India
Ritesh’s sneaker reselling journey at TheNorthStreet is a blend of pure love for sneakers and a goal to bring sneaker culture to India.
In this regard, he began reselling sneakers in 2019 in WhatsApp communities starting from 1 group to 10 to 600 groups today.
One interesting fact about the brand is that Ritesh created the brand on Instagram under the name ‘Vintage’ in 2020 and changed it to TheNorthStreet in 2021 to align with the sneaker culture.
During this time, Ritesh got in touch with a freelancer to get the website done and from there, it's been about 3 years now for TheNorthStreet.
Speaking of how TheNorthStreet creates a unique experience for Sneakerheads in India, Ritesh mentions that they trade sneakers to fill the low-supply, high-demand gap.
Because truth be told, one needs to be lucky to actually be able to buy these limited edition shoes for which people usually have to take part in a raffle or sleep outside stores post-launch.
TheNorthStreet makes it easy for such people to buy sneakers like Nike Jordan 1 by purchasing it from those who have it but don’t have the consumer reach for a 20-25% ROI.
In simple terms, people invest in premium sneakers and get an ROI from TheNorthStreet which trades it further.
Well, you’d have heard of trading company stocks but shoes? Now that’s something!
The brand even has an offline store in Shanti Nagar, Bengaluru, India wherein one can simply walk in to get a feel of limited edition sneakers, play games, chill on bean bags and have a good time.
But hold on, that’s not just what makes TheNorthStreet unique. It is their 5-day delivery time as opposed to that of their competitors that has helped them gain popularity and grow.
“Today, we’re a team of 16 people and do about 5-10 crores revenue a year with an average of 15 orders a day in store.
Following Passion Is Easy but Setting up a Business?
The initial sales may not sustain forever and Ritesh knows this too well.
While low competition during the initial days took lesser effort for him to bag good sales through the WhatsApp groups and Instagram, there did come a time when he had to pump in money.
Money to not just run Facebook ads for sales and education too via YouTube.
“Sneaker culture is a thing in USA and UK but in India, you got to think twice before you invest that kind of money in sneakers. So we educate people via YouTube.”
Apart from working on growing sales and spreading sneaker culture awareness, Ritesh as an entrepreneur found it quite taxing to build the right team, manage legal work and stay motivated.
Out of all these, it is being persistent in terms of believing in his business and not giving up, especially on bad days that Ritesh finds the most challenging part.
Because it takes an immense amount of guts to do something of your own, especially when you have an established business as with that comes expectations.
“The competition is higher now. It’s not like Abhishek Bachchan is not a good actor. But matching up to his father, Amitabh’s level wouldn’t be easy. The pressure is real.”
That’s why Ritesh believed in finding his own happiness by building a business that could be called his own, not his family business.
However, he at the same time considers himself extremely lucky to have the support of his father both financially and emotionally.
Moving Ahead, One Step at a Time
While Ritesh is happy with the current growth, his goal is to stabilise operations for the coming years and open another offline store in Bengaluru itself by next year.
For entrepreneurs out there trying to do something of their own, Ritesh asks them to keep an open heart and follow their dreams, even if it fails, rather than being surrounded by what-ifs.
“You should go for what you like. If it doesn’t work, you can always start something new, but so you don't start you won't know if it's for you or not.”
A passion can turn into a successful business with sheer willpower, the right knowledge and the support of loved ones and Ritesh’s TheNorthStreet journey is proof.
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