- Published on Monday, 17 April 2017 10:25
Bata has been a common shoe brand among Malaysian folks of different generations, and we are all so familiar with it that we identify it as the must-have school shoes.
But over the weekend, the established school shoe brand which has more than 4900 retail stores in over 70 countries found themselves in hot water when a concerned citizen named Sanjay Naidu had received a displeasing photo from his female friend who visited their KLCC outlet – one he deemed “racist”.
Pictured among the school shoes displayed was a promotional standee that wrote: "Shoes For: Indian School Children."
When Sanjay called up the outlet to find out what the promotion was all about, a staff named Jimmy could not explain the purpose instead kept on repeating “This one for India” and that he could speak with someone at their headquarters to further clarify the matter.
To make matters worse, on a defensive note, the staff had raised his voice to Sanjay.
On April 15, Sanjay took to Facebook to share the image and wrote an accompanying message:
As you can guess, he instantly got negative responses from his friends, agreeing that the brand's actions were indeed racist.
“Wait what does it even mean?? Means catered for kids from Indian schools?? Or Indian kids.. Or Indian feet?? Like any of those has any difference,” said Yamunah Samynathan Rubesh.
“Do they have shoes for Chinese and malays?,” asked Nithya Punniamoorthy.
“I wonder if they have a specific model of shoe as well for Chinese School Children???,” wrote Wei Tatt Chong.
Balan Murugan opined, "People will think indian boys are dirty....Obviously racist..."
“This is pure Racism!! MY GOD!,” exclaimed Apple Lonzki.
However, after doing his research, Sanjay found a good explanation on the Bata website and proceeded to share it with his followers.
“Real Story is this: It's in their website about BATA story. Created for school children in India in 1936 ‘Originally created for Indian school children, the pinstriped sneaker with the distinctive rubber toe guard became one of the best-selling shoes of all time – and is still sold around the world.’”
Neverthless, Sanjay, being a creative director himself strongly felt the trusted shoemakers should have worded their campaign differently.
“But they way they have highlighted it is wrong. It should market the history PROPERLY....not blatantly like this. BATA please HIRE ME AS YOUR BRAND MANAGER or CREATIVE DIRECTOR,” he urged.
He even came up with his reimagined promotional ad that looks like this:
In light of the event which garnered much attention on social media, a Bata employee responded to Sanjay’s queries and said she would bring it up to the management.
Although at the time of writing, checks by Malaysian Digest show that Bata has yet to respond on its social media page with regards to their heritage campaign.
Sadly, this issue comes just after the brand came under fire for controversial school shoes which purportedly had soles with the Arabic word "Allah" inscribed, resulting to the company losing more than RM500,000.
We hope Bata will give consumers the explanation they demand and start rethinking of ways to strengthen their branding.