This case is based on the professionalization and governance challenges faced by Touchdown Footwear Limited (TFL), a mid-sized Indian footwear manufacturing family business. TFL was set up in 1965 in the southern Indian city of Mangalore by three brothers, Ramnath, Krishna and Ganesh Pai who had inherited their father's rubber trading business. Initially, TFL made flip-flops and catered to the local market. Over the years, it had expanded the product portfolio to include school shoes and other non-leather footwear. By 2016 TFL had a pan-India presence with some exports to African markets. In the early years, the three brothers managed all the functions of the business. When the next generation came of age and joined the firm in the 1970s and '80s, they took up various roles based largely on business exigencies. By 2016, TFL had a turnover of INR 16.19 billion but lacked professional management and a clear strategy. In the absence of an appropriate structure, systems and processes, decision-making was ad hoc. Inefficiencies and wastage were evident across the organization, and working capital was under severe strain. The firm suffered from a deficit of governance at both the family and business systems. The lack of clear policies and processes delayed many crucial decisions. Earlier attempts to professionalize the business had failed to achieve the desired results as family members lacked clear policies to follow and were unable to change their mindset. Furthermore, when the fourth generation began to enter the business, there were questions about their level of commitment and discipline. TFL required transitional change on multiple fronts to sustain the business but there was lack of clarity on the roadmap for the future.
The case aims to help the participants recognize and effectively manage the challenges of professionalization and governance that a small family business faces during the process of growth and transition into a larger organization. This case serves as a tool for understanding and mapping the transition needed on three dimensions of - (1) Strategy, (2) Professionalization, and (3) Family Governance, as a family business crosses the initial threshold of growth in its life cycle.