In the first edition of How to Succeed in 2021, we’re speaking to Ravine Mahtani and Mira Uttamchandani, the husband-and-wife duo behind the online sneaker platform, Sneaker Surge HK.
The term ‘luxury’ has evolved to define many things: private yachting excursions, shiny new motors with built-in massaging seats, trying a new superfood recipe, a quiet afternoon, or getting your hands on a just-launched, very rare, very limited pair of sneakers.
The latter notion is something Ravine Mahtani and Mira Uttamchandani know exactly about as the creative minds behind sneaker platform, Sneaker Surge HK. Launched in 2017, the site is treasure trove dedicated to anything and everything happening in the sneaker realm — where to look and what to look for, while doubling as an online retail destination for carefully curated, ultra-exclusive kicks, meticulously sourced by the pair.
To friends, they are the ‘Jordan-Pippen dream team’; to each other, a pillar of love, support and friendship, bolstered by an ardent passion for trending footwear and entrepreneurship. Both graduates of business degrees, Mahtani received his education from Babson College while Uttamchandani, Parsons School of Design with a programme in fashion. A shared career within the business of fashion was, then of course, inevitable.
While others invested in currencies and properties, handbags even, Mahtani desired to trail the path less taken. Following late-night discussions and intuitive advice from family and friends, he deduced the next-best-thing in investments would be something he felt most passionate about: the sartorial staple sneaker. Not your ordinary, workaday pair, but ones born out of exclusive collaborations and made only in limited quantities. His predictions weren’t off, and the ever-growing presence of Sneaker Surge HK (a chosen moniker that, too, hopes to envisage the rise in the value of the brand) serve as veritable proof.
Sharp-eyed readers will be familiar with Uttamchandani’s byline; she has consistently contributed her in-the-know perspective to our monthly sneaker column and hand-picks a selection of new releases worth paying attention to. Under her discerning advice, we brought insights on much-anticipated news surrounding new- and re-releases of the coveted Yeezys, insider details on the hot Nike x Stüssy collaboration (which has since seen resale prices skyrocketing) and helpfully provided a point of purchase for the ever-renewing Air Jordans.
Ever keen to know more about the duo, we talk to Ravine and Mira about starting a brand, productivity tips for staying motivated and find out whether it is ever possible to spy a ‘hype’ pair of sneakers from afar.
What influenced you to start Sneaker Surge and enter the industry?
Ravine: It’s human nature to want what you can’t have. In 2016, I saw a friend rocking a pair of Yeezys and immediately wanted a pair. On the spot, he offered them off his feet for USD1000 above retail price. And I thought to myself, “No way. I’m not that desperate.” Turns out, I was.
I quickly exhausted every way possible to get my hands on a pair of Yeezys. I joined every raffle, tried every connection I made at Babson and even spent USD500 on a bot.
Finally, I got my hands on a pair for USD500 above retail price. With USD1000 already out of my pocket, a bot purchased and a lot of time wasted, I feeling frustrated and I knew there had to be another way. Then and there, I realised I could transform this into a business, and we created Sneaker Surge HK.
Tell us about a significant point where you truly began to feel recognised.
Ravine: To be honest I don’t feel like we’ve made it just yet. We still have a long way to go. Having said that, when people I admire start asking me to help them source a pair of shoes, I realise that people do know me and I have disrupted the market. I am here to stay.
To you, what’s the most important aspect, trait or criteria for someone to succeed?
Ravine: In the sneaker game, it’s all about loyalty and respect. It’s a tight knit community; in this world everyone knows everyone. People go from being no one to someone quickly, and if you keep your word, it will take you places.
What does an average work day look like for you?
Ravine: If every day was the same, I wouldn’t be in the sneaker business.
Mira: Work Hard. Play Hard. Sleep Harder.
What’s some of the key challenges that taught you an important lesson? What was the most important thing you learned?
Ravine: Thankfully, I wouldn’t say we ever had a ‘low’ point specifically, but we’ve had many learning experiences. Spend time training your team because it will take you a long way, they are the backbone of your business. If you are in position to take risks, take them. Don’t be greedy — sometimes just take the small profit (or loss) and reinvest.
What is your crucial tip for productivity?
Ravine: I will happily admit, I am laid back. This means, I will find the quickest and smartest way to get things done. This is how I stay productive.
Mira: Balance. I am a strong believer in ‘work hard, play hard(er)’. I also figured out two things in 2020: One, when I wake up before the rest of the world is awake, I get a lot done. Two, I need to spend time with friends and family to feel refreshed and ready to hustle again.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Ravine: Go out — so I can rock my sneakers.
Mira: Like my sneaker rotation, I love switching things up. I love trying new restaurants, visiting new places and spaces for inspiration. A good conversation over a cup of coffee also hits the spot.
Can you share some of your favourite sneaker styles?
Ravine: I am a lowkey geek. It is really hard not to answer “play Fortnite” when asked what I do in my free time. I really love the Tom Sachs x Nikecraft Marsyards. The shoe is made from all materials found in a spaceship and designed by Tommaso Rivellini, one of NASA’s mechanical engineers. I also love the Daniel Arsham x Futurecraft 4D Runner that has a 3D-printed midsole and reads ‘Present’ and ‘Future’ when exposed to blue light. They also happen to be the most comfortable pair I own.
Mira: I often struggle between being comfortable, feeling cool and looking cute. My huge go-to for comfort are the Nike x Off White Vapormax 2.0. When I am meeting Sneaker Surge clients, especially for showroom appointments, I will usually throw on something more ‘hyped’ like the Serena William x Nike Off-White blazers and of course, when I want to look chic yet functional, I will wear a pair of Nike Dunks — they are a sleek low-top that works well with all clothing.
Who is one person who has been instrumental in your success?
Kanye West, the man that brought hype back, and of course my wife, the ace up my sleeve.
Are you able to predict from the get-go which sneakers will reach cult status?
Ravine: I wish. If you meet anyone who can, please tell them to send their resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is your dream collaboration?
Ravine: The NBA. I’ve grown up watching and playing basketball, so being able to do something creative, and make an impact with some of the greatest of all time, I would finally be able to say “We’ve made it.”
Mira: Nike. Nike’s brand is timeless. It is innovative with its technology, it aims to constantly empower people through marketing and it’s always progressive. I would love for Sneaker Surge HK to be a part of an influential, inclusive and impactful project to this scale. If we are ever asked to put our brand or name on anything Nike, I would say, we’ve done something right.
Can you share any upcoming projects at Sneaker Surge? Any exciting new launches?
Ravine: Now that we know what we’re doing is working, we’re doing a full rebrand designed by Vingt Quatre Studio and I am excited for the new aesthetic. We’ve also just opened our showroom space to customers, with a personally tailored concierge service.
What are the upcoming sneaker trends for 2021?
Ravine: Although Dunks were ‘so last year’ (2020) I believe they are here to stay. The silhouette works for both men and women, and it is a classic. There are also several Air Jordan 1 collaborations in the pipeline, the silhouette is timeless and always a good buy.
(Header image courtesy of Ali G Studios, Makeup: Nastasha Moor, Hair: Anaitha Nair)