'All heart and sole': This Pune entrepreneur gave up job to make customised footware from tyre scrap

Apte-Badamikar wanted to make something that involved no chemical processing.
Pooja Apte-Badamikar
Pooja Apte-Badamikar

Ever wondered what happens to the worn-out tyres after their purpose has been served? Pooja Apte-Badamikar may have the answer.

Sitting alongside a cobbler on the roadside, as she patiently guided him over four hours in crafting an eco-friendly, aesthetically pleasing and durable pair of footwear from a tyre scrap, Apte-Badamikar had her Eureka moment.

This Pune entrepreneur gave up her corporate job to branch out on her own making customised footwear from tyre scrap. “I started studying up-cycling. I was lucky to get help from mentors and we did multiple experiments.” Soon Nemital was born. Nemi stands for ‘chakra’, and Tal means ‘sole’.

Apte-Badamikar wanted to make something that involved no chemical processing. With the help of a roadside cobbler, she managed to make two prototypes—one with a truck tyre, and the other with an airplane tyre, besides using some leftover fabric from a boutique. “I participated in ‘Startup India’ and my concept was awarded, giving me the confidence to go ahead with the idea,” she says.

It was not a dream run initially. The first challenge for Apte-Badamikar lay in stepping out of her comfort zone. “Suddenly there was no regular salary coming in. It put all kinds of negative thoughts in my mind. Thankfully, I had the support of my family to pull me through this,” she says. But one of the biggest challenges was the footwear industry itself. It was totally new for her. From getting the correct quantity of raw material, to explaining to the cobblers what she wanted proved difficult in the early days.

“Most of the cobblers were experts in their field, and here I was out of nowhere explaining to them how they should go about their business and how using tyre instead of plastic or virgin rubber was better for the environment,” she reminisces. Initially the 29-year-old would source tyre scraps with the help of local rag pickers and she would herself work on the design aspect. But the entrepreneur has come a long way since. “We have a tyre scrap vendor and also a designer,” she says proudly.

Her brand today offers customisable Kolhapuris, mojris, sandals and heels, priced between Rs 600 and Rs 1,200. She also makes footwear for boutiques that sell designer wear, and hopes to tap the huge fashion segment some day. She is now looking at scaling up the business in India and internationally, besides launching up-cycled products crafted out of other scrap materials. It’s a predilection she never tyres of. 

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The New Indian Express