Unforgotten Brands – VKC Footwear

VKC logo

VKC’s ability to adapt to changing market demands and dedication to improving the lives of their employees and community have left a lasting impact

Born into a peasant family, Mammed Koya’s childhood was marked by poverty. His formal education ended in seventh grade, and he had to fend for himself early in life. Initially, he worked at a matchstick manufacturing company in Kozhikode but was dismissed after participating in worker agitations and becoming a Communist Party worker.

In the late 60s, Koya moved to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, where he worked as a contract employee with the electricity board before setting up a teashop. However, he was destined for more significant ventures, even if they started small. Returning to Kerala in 1967, Koya, along with friends K Seithalavi and C Seithalikkutti, began a business supplying raw materials for matchsticks. They named their brand VKC, using their initials.

From Matchsticks to Footwear

The business flourished until the early 80s when the market for matchstick raw materials dwindled due to competition and the scarcity of softwood. By 1984, the business closed. Koya then pivoted to manufacturing Hawai-sheets, used by small chappal-making companies to produce soles. Utilizing the premises of the defunct matchstick company, he secured initial capital through bank loans and local chit funds, launching the VKC Footwear Company in Kozhikode with fewer than 20 employees and a Rs 30 lakh investment.

Breaking into the Footwear Market

Kerala’s growing demand for ‘Hawai’ chappals spurred Koya to venture into footwear manufacturing. Leveraging Kerala’s robust rubber industry, he set up a unit near Kozhikode to serve the North Kerala market. He visited the Rubber Research Institute of India in Kottayam to learn about the business and conducted numerous trials to produce high-quality rubber sheets for chappals. He aimed to create sturdy, affordable footwear suitable for daily use, especially for labourers in construction and farming. The company started producing about 600 pairs of chappals daily.

Expansion and Innovation

Affordable, durable footwear became popular among labourers, aligning with Koya’s Communist ideology of meeting basic needs affordably. Tamil labourers introduced Hawai chappals to Tamil Nadu, prompting VKC’s entry into that market. Despite limited technical knowledge, Koya invested in the latest machinery from Europe and introduced new market trends. In the 90s, when PVC chappals from Taiwan and Thailand began replacing Hawai chappals, VKC became Kerala’s sole PVC chappal manufacturer. The willingness to experiment and learn helped VKC thrive.

The Rise of PU Footwear

By 2006-7, PVC chappals lost their appeal, and polyurethane (PU) footwear became popular. VKC capitalized on this trend, becoming the largest PU footwear manufacturer. The next generation, including Koya’s sons Rasaq (an MBA) and Noushad (an M.Tech in Polymer Science and Rubber Technology), joined the business, bringing professional expertise and driving further growth. They introduced more professionals to the board, propelling the company’s expansion.

Employee-Friendly Policies and Social Initiatives

Koya attributes VKC’s success to employee-friendly policies, including providing accommodation with clusters of decent flats, canteens, and TV rooms in Malappuram and Wayanad districts. The company conducts basic English literacy classes for employees and offers educational scholarships to their children. VKC’s Trusts engage in social initiatives like adopting schools, building hospital blocks, and sponsoring free dialysis, improving the quality of life for the community.

Political and Civic Engagement

Koya’s commitment to social welfare extended beyond business. He served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly representing Beypore constituency in Kozhikode district from 2001 to 2006 and held various positions in civic bodies such as the Gram Panchayat, the District Council, the District Panchayat, and Cooperative firms. In November, he was elected Mayor of Kozhikode Municipal Corporation.


Mammed Koya’s journey from a poor peasant boy to a successful entrepreneur and respected political figure is a testament to his resilience, innovation, and commitment to social justice. His ability to adapt to changing market demands and his dedication to improving the lives of his employees and community have left a lasting impact on Kerala’s footwear industry and beyond. Today, VKC is a well-known brand with production units across the country, a legacy that continues to grow under the leadership of his sons and their cousins.




For consultation and advice - https://topmate.io/vejay_anand_s

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *