Worldwide, every year more than 35,00,00,000 pairs of shoes are discarded, that is a frigging 35 crore! According to a recent report by WHO, 1.5 billion people are infected by diseases that could be prevented if we wore proper footwear. When we look at this scenario that we pay a closer look at the rural areas where people are mostly barefooted.
Here’s Shriyans Bhandari and Ramesh Dhami who saw the need and decided to fulfil it by coming up with a venture which is diverted towards social work. Shriyans Bhandari comes from an elite family with a business background in Udaipur, Rajasthan. He has completed his BBA from Mumbai’s Jai Hind College and pursued his Master’s in Entrepreneurial Leadership from Babson College, USA. On the other hand, Ramesh Dhami is from a small village in Uttarakhand. He left his home at the age of 10 because of domestic problems and moved to Mumbai with the dream of working in films. He had to sleep on the pavements and would have to stay hungry at times. He then got connected to a NGO named ‘Saathi’ where he learned to read and write thereon getting inspired to go for sports. This was the time when Shriyans and Ramesh met at the Priyadarshani Park both being marathon runners.
As athletes, Shriyans Bhandari and Ramesh Dhami ran hundreds of kilometres every year. They also ran through at least three to four pairs of sport shoes every year. The soles were in good condition but the shoe sides tore within months. The duo always wondered if they could find some use for the intact soles of these quality sport shoes. A bit of research led to the idea of refurbishing them into trendy slippers. That brainwave eventually spawned an eco-friendly enterprise that reuses shoe soles and is appropriately named Greensole.
Initially, Shriyans and Ramesh presented their business model of Greensole to Jai Hind College in a business competition by National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN). Their idea won a lot of money while getting some from home and donations, Greensole was launched in the form of a private limited company for Rs 10 Lakhs. In 2014, there was a well-known traditional colony for making sandals named ‘Thakkar Bappa Colony’ where in a space of 500 sq ft they started making sandals from old shoes with just five workers.
Today, here’s Greensole, they recycle discarded shoes to comfortable footwear, keeping them away from landfills and provide them to children in need. They also retail, upcycled footwear towards building a self-sustaining social venture. They have made a humble start by providing footwear to 50,000 people in need across the villages of India and in 2017, they will provide footwear to more than 100,000 people in need. While manufacturing a pair of shoes involves a total of assembling up to 65 discrete parts in 360 steps, which generates 30 lbs of emissions; equivalent to leaving a 100-watt bulb burning for a week.
Having the appreciation from veterans like Ratan Tata and Barack Obama, they both have confidence and awakening that they are on the right path. Recently, they were a social partner for the IDBI Marathon, where Sachin Tendulkar collected and donated 100 old shoes to Greensole.
Today, many corporates such as Axis Bank, Indiabulls, Tata Power and DTDC are involved in their campaign. Apart from this, there are several organisations that help them to invest in shoes. They pay for repairs of shoes and then donate them to the needy. In all, Greensole does CSR for 35 corporates who pay them Rs 199/pair they recycle and donate. They also have a recycled range which is sold online.
“Never thought of becoming entrepreneurs, nor were we sure of the idea. We took baby steps and did the immediately possible steps which led us to where we are today,” says Shriyans.
Greensole aims, to contribute to social good, by creating a self-sustaining infrastructure that facilitates the provision of the basic necessity of footwear to everyone, forever, environmental good, by refurbishing discarded shoes with zero carbon footprint and economic good by giving employment to refurbish shoes. Soon, they are planning to set up their units in Delhi and Bangalore.
Shriyans, giving a message for success to the youth like him he says, “Whenever there are ideas, keep growing on every next step to it. Talk to successful people around you and in that area, and implement your idea.”