Shoemaker to the world focused on the poor

While many companies strive for high-end products to capture affluent buyers or the "aspirational" consumer, Tomas Bata mostly made practical shoes for the third world -- so much so that Bata has become a generic noun for shoe in some parts of Africa, according to the New York Times. Bata, who died Monday in Toronto at 93, even titled his auotobiography "shoemaker to the world" and ran his company like a true global empire -- making and selling products around the world, rather than trying to get attention in the U.S. for a few flashy products.

After taking over the company from his father, who died in an airplane crash in 1932, Bata moved the company from Czechoslovakia to Canada in 1939, before the outbreak of war. The company grew exponentially and now produces about 300 million shoes per year in 25 different countries and operates 5,000 retail shops. Bata's wife Sonja is the founding chairwoman of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto and the family donates generously to charity.

Bata's web site today is devoted as a memorial to its chief, who died at 93, but you can immediately tell that the company has a world focus rather than an American one because the U.S. doesn't even appear in the drop-down menu to find a "Bata Near You." .

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