How many pairs of shoes do we discard each year? What would you say if I told you the shoes you cast away can be revamped, overhauled and remade as good as new?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that almost 1.5 billion people undergo pain because of infections caused by unprotected feet.
An independent, social venture, Greensole saw the immense potential in recycling discarded footwear with the sole aim of covering every barefoot along with creating employment. There’s an environmental angle too— the undertaking is playing a vital role in protecting the environment by curtailing the waste generated and doing away with the Carbon Dioxide emission. Manufacturing of a pair of shoes generates 30 lbs of emission, which is equivalent to leaving a 100 watt bulb burning for a week.
As athletes Shriyans Bhandari and Ramesh Dhami ran hundreds of kilometers each year throwing away 3 to 4 pairs of shoes . Hitting upon the idea of making discarded shoes usable and with some research they were able to revamp sports shoes with intact soles into comfortable slippers. This is how their journey began.
Twenty-two year old Dhami who is the co-founder of the venture was born in Prachinti, a small village in Pittorgarh (UP). He ran away from home at 10 because of troubles at home and travelled across north India eking a living out of odd jobs.
Like most run-away youngsters he arrived in Mumbai 2 years later with dreams of becoming an actor.
He lived on the footpath, going hungry,doing drugs and committing petty crimes till he came in contact with the NGO Saathi where he learnt to read and write and make paper bags. The NGO encouraged him to take up sports and that’s how he met Shriyans Bhandari at the Priyadarshini Park.
Bhandari hailed from a business family with roots in Rajasthan and was a Management student at Mumbai’s Jai Hind College. Both shared their passion for running. On one occasion Dhami noticed that his shoes were wearing out quickly, but the soles were intact. Not able to afford a new pair he fashioned a pair of slippers with some glue and tyre tubing.
Both joined hands and set up Greensole in 2015 funding their venture with cash prizes they won in business competitions. Within a few months of setting up their venture they had provided footwear to 10,000 people in need across villages in India.
Although, the idea was appreciated by all, the duo, got their major breakthrough when they presented the idea in an exhibition at Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, Ahmedabad, in 2014. They were selected among the top 30 innovators of country. The idea was also accorded with the Technology and Sustainability Award in Eureka, International Business Plan Competition of IIT Bombay and the venture received funding worth Rs. 3 lakh.
Lack of experience in the field was a major hurdle, in their search they landed at
Thakkar Bappa Colony in Mumbai,famous for its shoe market, where they gathered information regarding shoe manufacturing. GreenSole took Ram Fashion Exports on board, a company manufacturing shoes since the past 53 years.
The project also has partnership with 17 corporates like Tata Group, JLL, India Bulls etc. Discarded footwear is collected from these corporates and from a collection centre, then sent to their factory in Navi Mumbai to make them reusable. The refurbished footwear is then distributed in schools across villages.
A chunk of the footwear manufactured is also sold by Greensole to make itself sustainable. It has been successful and has provided footwear to the students in schools across the villages like Murbad, Naroli, Kalsuri, Mokhada.
Lauded by Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, and Barack Obama, President of USA.Shriyans believes “Business and philanthropy can go hand in hand.”
Having taken the first steps successfully, Shriyans hopes to provide footwear to 50,000 in 2016 and 100,000 by 2017. If you can give a pair of discarded shoes, we can give you a new pair for Rs. 199 to 1,499 depending on the design.!