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Introducing ‘Bha’: New Indian Shoe Sizing System

Ill-fitting footwear could soon become a problem of the past for Indians as the country gears up to introduce a new sizing system tailored to the unique dimensions and structure of the average Indian foot. Named ‘Bha’ – derived from ‘Bharat’ – this indigenous sizing approach aims to replace UK/European and US standards by 2025.

The catalyst behind this ambitious initiative was a pan-India survey conducted between December 2021 and March 2022, which involved 3D foot scans of over 100,000 individuals across 79 locations. The findings revealed startling insights – Indian feet are generally more comprehensive than their European or American counterparts, and the current sizing systems have led to a significant portion of the population wearing shoes that are either too large or poorly fitted.

The survey further uncovered that the average foot size growth for Indian women peaks at around 11 years old, while for men, it culminates at 15 or 16 years of age. Additionally, it highlighted the concern about the practice of excessive shoelace tightening, which disrupts normal blood flow and leads to discomfort, injuries, and foot health issues, particularly among the elderly and those with diabetes.

Addressing these concerns, the ‘Bha’ shoe sizing system proposes a simplified approach with just eight footwear sizes tailored to different age groups. The aim is to provide a better fit for approximately 85% of Indians while streamlining manufacturing by eliminating half-sizes.

The eight ‘Bha’ sizes are:

I – Infants (0-1 year)
II – Toddlers (1-3 years)
III – Small children (4-6 years)
IV – Children (7-11 years)
V – Girls (12-13 years)
VI – Boys (12-14 years)
VII – Women (14 years and above)
VIII – Men (15 years and above)

Production will primarily focus on sizes III to VIII to cater to the needs of the majority of the Indian population.

Beyond improved fit, the ‘Bha’ system promises increased comfort, wider dimensions, and an additional 5mm allowance for foot length, addressing the long-standing issues faced by Indian consumers with ill-fitting shoes.

The initiative is a collaborative effort between the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) and the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) in Chennai. They have been working to develop an ‘Indian footwear Sizing system’ that caters specifically to Indians’ needs.

“We are bringing out customization for Indians, which will help improve their comfort. For trials, we are planning to work with mould manufacturers and then join hands with companies. We will be doing user-based trials for about 10,000 people and monitoring them for a year. We should be able to launch the Indian footwear sizing system by 2025,” said K J Sreeram, the director of CLRI.

The proposed ‘Bha’ system has already garnered interest from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which received a report on the survey findings and the proposed sizing system’s effectiveness. User trials involving around 10,000 individuals aged between 5 and 55 years will be conducted for about a year, with their results closely monitored before the final implementation.

As India continues its stride towards self-reliance and customization across various sectors, the ‘Bha’ footwear sizing system represents a significant step towards addressing a long-standing issue faced by millions of Indians. By catering to the unique needs of the Indian population, this initiative promises improved comfort and foot health and reflects the country’s commitment to innovation and inclusive development.

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