Reincarnating the weary sole
By Jayanthi Somasundaram | Published: 07th January 2017 10:00 PM |
Being athletes, friends Ramesh Dhami and Shriyans Bhandari had to discard at least three to four pairs of sports shoes every year. “But the mindset of a maker inside us inspired us and we started converting our torn shoes into slippers for ourselves. Soon, this inspiration turned into a realisation, and an idea popped up in our minds that this could be an exciting venture that could benefit millions,” says 23-year-old Dhami. “From there began the story of GreenSole in 2013.”
The venture that was started with shoes owned by 22-year-old Bhandari and start-up co-founder Dhami has refurbished over 50,000 pairs and sent them to over one lakh needy children across the country.
Recently, the Mumbai-based firm participated in the 20th Wharton India Economic Forum’s Start-up Competition. Over 750 applications were received from varied industries.
“We had hoped to win; in fact many people thought Greensole would win. But it was just a competition for us. More than that, it was a platform to share our story,” says Bhandari.
“In the method we followed to repair shoes initially, we used a utility knife to cut the sole away from the rest of the shoe. Then an insole was applied using glue and a discarded bicycle tyre was re-purposed to make straps. And a comfortable sandal was ready.” The method was improvised gradually.
“The first thing we do at the donation drive is work towards inculcating the habit of wearing footwear among children,” says Bhandari. Their ground staff team meets children and heads of the schools and villages, and disseminates information.
“We also hold medical camps during the drives, where many children were found with foot abnormalities and ailments. After the footwear is provided, we are in touch with the school and village heads to check if the children are wearing them,” says Dhami.
Greensole has 17 corporate partners to support its initiative. These companies conduct collection drives and pay Greensole to refurbish the shoes and donate them in villages. Once the shoes are collected and sorted according to size, they are sent to Greensole’s manufacturing unit in Kurla, Mumbai. On an average, every month Greensole makes 2,000 pairs of footwear and has two industrial design patents for its products.
Bhandari and Dhami say manufacturing a pair of shoes involves assembling up to 65 discrete parts in 360 steps, which generates almost 30 pounds of carbon emissions. But in making of slippers, the steps are only one-fourth, and the emission is less. “Till now, we have transported footwear to schools of Hiradpada, Jawhar, Uran, Mokhada villages in Maharashtra and Uran,” says Dhami. “These footwear can last up to two years.”
Additionally, the organisation conducts collection drives on its own too. “Our ground staff helps us identify the villages. Besides, people also write to us regarding their needs,” says Dhami.
More than 35 crore pairs of shoes are discarded worldwide every year, but not all of them are reused.
“The excitement on the face of children on getting footwear gives us a sense of satisfaction and an inspiration to work more,” Bhandari says. “Under the Donatingwalks campaign, we plan to donate 50,000 pairs this year.”
The organisation has also started retailing refurbished footwear at low cost.
“We are happy to accept those dusty, well-used, worn-out shoes sitting idle in your shoe racks, but make sure they don’t have heels,” they say.
A giant stride for the barefoot.