the somnambulist

the somnambulist

Footware (please excuse the spelling)

I got mugged for the second time this year. Last time it was my digital camera, this time it was my footwear. I got up late(9ish) on Sunday morn. and had just finished my morning ablutions when one of my PG mates started searching for his leather sandals. The search took him to the main shoerack where the 10 of us keep our shoes. To mine and his amazement the shoerack was virtually empty, with all branded shoes missing. It took us a while to realize that we had been robbed early in the morning. What must have happened is that someone must have left the door ajar for an hour or so. Sensing the oppurtunity thieves must have sneaked in and made away with all our shoes.

Now what's interesting about the theft was that nothing else of value was touched. This points to the existence of theives who come in with the primary intent of selling shoes. The fact that no unbranded shoe was taken points out to the fact that the thieves are educated enough to distinguish between brands and are aware that branded shoes fetch a greater price on the seconds market. A little bit of asking around showed that shoe theft is very common in Bangalore. Now this points to the existence of a active seconds market in Bangalore and surrounding areas where branded shoes are sold at great discounts. With rising income levels and greater purchasing power of the populace,people have started indulging themselves in high end footwear. Branded shoes have become a norm and have become a necessity for peer acceptance.

Even the cheapest piece of branded footwear costs more than Rs 1000 (20$). Considering that the population of Bangalore is about 65 lacs (6.5M) and at least half of the population can afford branded shoes, the branded shoe market in Bangalore works out to 300 crores(60M$). Now, if 30% of the population is susceptible to footwear robbery, the robbery market in Bangalore is somewhere close to 90 crore rupees (18M$). If the robbed items are sold at a discount of 50%, the seconds market still is somewhere close to 45 crore rupees (9M$). Thats a lot of money to be made and criminal elements have realised the oppurtunity waiting for them.

What can be done to stop such thefts? People would suggest excercising extra caution, keeping footwear under lock and key and what not. None of them are viable solutions, the primary reasons being:

  • Footwear doesnt merit elaborate security measures to make them theft-safe.
  • Footwear thefts rarely get reported to authorities irrespective of the value involved.
  • Footwear is a replaceable commodity, and it hardly takes someone a month to replace stolen footwear.
  • Branded footwear is a necessity in a social context, especially among todays youth.

So is there something that can be done? Probably, but the ball is in the court of the enforcement agencies of the Govt of India. Rather than trying to stop footwear thefts, an effort can be made to track down the resell channels of such stolen footwear in Bangalore and sorrounding areas. Due to the lower value/weight(Rs/Kg) of footwear, they dont make ideal candidates for transportation over long distances.

This means that all stolen footwear has to resurface in near shore markets. That should makes things easier for enforcement agencies. If the resell points are shut down then the incidence of such thefts will fall dramatically. Footwear is not edible. So no resell would mean no reuse and would consequently mean no value for the stolen goods.

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