Hyderabad: We are at a time and age when most of the items ranging from paper to power are being recycled. But here is an entrepreneur duo that is recycling shoes. Shoes contain different materials ranging from our sole to the strap and once it becomes old we either donate them or just throw them. And this was the problem that two professional athletes Shriyans Bhandari and Ramesh Dhami wanted to tap into it.
Shriyans hit upon this idea at a young age of 19 as he had to discard shoes frequently after he started taking part in marathons. He discussed this pain point with his fellow runner Ramesh – who was also a professional runner and had won several races in India. Thus they started thinking about eco-friendly ways of recycling shoes. And thus was born country’s first shoe recycling company GreenSole. “We started researching about shoe manufacturing and found out that nobody had ever thought about this before. I used to attend college in the morning and manage the business in the evening. At first we got a few orders from corporates wherein they used to give their old shoes and we recycle them and give them for free to underprivileged children. Slowly, in the last three years we have been able to even retail some of our recycled shoes through our online portal,” says Shriyans, whose products are going to be shown at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Hyderabad from November 28.
Starting a business was never a second thought for Shriyans. Hailing from a business background and having helped his family, he learnt the tricks of the trade very fast. However, the challenge was to convince corporates and people to use these refurbished shoes and also do some social good. “There have been many challenges in terms of retailing our products and also to get old shoes. But now we have been able to establish ourselves and have tied up with corporates who provide their old shoes for a marginal cost,” the 21-year-old Mumbaikar says.
Shriyans completed his bachelors in management studies from Mumbai and after starting the company went to do his masters in entrepreneurship. This, according to him, also helped him further the business while not losing track of the social cause.
Speaking about the wastage caused by shoes, Shriyans says “About 35 crore pairs of non-biodegradable shoes are discarded every year, worldwide. At the same time, 1.5 billion people in the world currently do not have footwear and millions of them suffer from diseases contracted because of unprotected feet each year.”
Along with corporates, individuals can also donate their old shoes through their various collection points spread across the country. Now once the shoes reach their manufacturing unit in Navi Mumbai, they are washed and disassembled by separating the soles and uppers. The team cuts the soles according to the required sizes and uses them to make base of the slippers. The uppers are used to make straps, while the laces are used to pack the footwear. “Instead of melting the shoes like many shoe manufacturers do, we refurbish them so there is minimal carbon emission,” says Shriyans.
The company has 10 people who work in the management side and 25 who work in the unit. And a normal shoe or slipper takes about 30 minutes to make. GreenSole was amongst the top 30 innovators of India by Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, Ahmedabad and they had also won Rs 5 lakh seed capital from IIT Bombay’s B plan competition Eureka and Ridea, Nagpur. So far, the company has recycled and donated more than 52,000 pairs of shoes. And has corporates like Axis Bank, Tata Power, JLL, L&T and 35 others as partners.