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You’re familiar with this brand since a child because your parents introduced them to you on the first day of school. You’ve worn them throughout your entire primary education years, be it black or white, laced or without. Like it or not, you have a relationship with this brand. Because of that, it was your number one choice when it’s time for you to make the choice for your children’s first pair of school shoes.

That’s right, we’re talking about Bata.

Believe it or not, Bata Shoes did not originate from Malaysia; the now multinational shoe brand was founded by Tomáš Baťa and his siblings one hundred and twenty years ago in Czech Republic. Perhaps what was even less known was that Bata has one of the most inspiring business success stories in modern history.

Within the first two decades of its formation, Bata was already producing 2200 pairs of shoes per day. Despite the outbreak of the First World War, sales increased to approximately two million pairs per year by 1917. Just before the World War II, Bata has already employed over 65, 000 people worldwide, and provided them with various incentives. Not only that, Bata set up villages around factories all over the world to ensure that workers and their families have schools, healthcare, and welfare. Today, Bata serves more than 1 million customers per day in over 90 countries.

Several interesting factors contributed to what made Bata one of the world’s biggest multinational retailers, manufacturers and distributors of footwear and accessories.

1. Bata was the first shoe company to position itself as a one stop family store.

Bata enjoyed an almost monopolistic position in the footwear market until the 1980s because it became a “need” brand, providing products that meet the needs of almost all members of the family. Many successful brands today modeled themselves after the same positioning that has proven to work for Bata. Tell me the Bata ad tagline “Mula-mula ke Bata, kemudian ke sekolah” still rings in your head.

2. Bata subsequently repositioned itself as the local brand of every country it serves.

Bata invented “The Bata System”; a system that require employees of each country to treat it as an entity separate from the Head Office, but still receive directions from it simultaneously. For others, it may be a conscious branding decision to showcase themselves as a brand from a particular country in foreign lands, but Bata did the exact opposite and did it well. The result? A global company that is customized to every market specific demand. In other words, it’s safe to say that Bata is a local brand in Malaysia because it speaks our language and knows our needs.

3. “At Bata, we see a sale as the beginning of a relationship.” — Thomas G. Bata

This is a principle the company has upheld throughout its history. From cutting the price of their products by 50% during the First World War to providing affordable footwear for the public, Bata became one of the most innovative brands in its time. Establishing “quality management” at least fifty years before the term was known, the shoemaking brand has preceded its rivals and built rapport with the customers in Bata’s heyday. Perhaps Bata understood that a relationship with customers has a ripple effect — it becomes a household brand from generation to generation.

Bata’s global presence is one of the best examples of effective marketing and branding strategies. The brand did not raise a banner and tell everyone where it’s from; rather it chose the humble way to gain the people’s trust by adapting to their lifestyles and “become local.” A true pioneer of its own class, Bata has reinvented not only the shoemaking industry, but also the business model of global companies.

Did I mention that Bata invented the system that was today’s equivalent of performance based incentives and stock options?

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