Footwear retailer Bata India has announced plans to expand via franchise model. The company plans to introduce almost four designs every day, open 70-100 stores of at least 5,000 square feet every year, and push its online sales to shed its image as a low-cost functional footwear brand that appeals to the 40-plus age group. "If the last five years were all about consolidation, the next five years will be all about expansion," said Marcelo Villagran, MD and CEO, Bata India who transformed the company from a point of bankruptcy when he took over six years ago to one of the most profitable operations of the Swiss multinational globally. Bata board is considering a proposal to start franchisee operations this year in smaller cities where setting up company-owned outlets may not be viable. Villagran says Bata will decide the location and then choose the partner. "It is not that anybody with real estate space can open a Bata store and the stores have to be according to our specifications so that customers do not feel the difference,'' he says. The company has shut down almost 400 small stores, which looked more like warehouses with hundreds of pairs of footwear staked in 1,000 sq ft or less, and opened 270 large-format stores at prime locations. At present, Bata is delivering to 315 towns across India, including tougher and difficult to operate markets like Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.