It is often said that inspirations lead to great innovations. And this is exactly what happened with Jay Rege and Jothsna when they stumbled upon an article that discussed the possible reuse of scrap tyres as footwear soles.
Reading this article was a eureka moment for them as this article gave birth to their startup, Paaduks, an attempt to make eco-friendly footwear.
“We were inspired by 'Indosole' a US-based firm that makes shoes with soles from used tyres. The only inspiration, however, that we drew from them was to use scrap tyres as shoe shoes,” said Rege, Founder, Paaduks.
While working with cobblers made them realize the various socio-economic problems that these cobblers are plagued with. They are often exploited by retailers and wholesalers who require them to invest in the production, pay them meager amount for all the hardships, and often delay payments as well. This spirals them into never ending debt cycles. Hence, they took a conscious decision to address these issues and make it the priority for their venture.
Entrepreneur India interacted with Rege to know more about his startup and how they are redefining innovation by catering eco-friendly footwear.
In 2013, we stumbled upon an article which discussed the possible reuse of scrap tyres as footwear soles. We liked the idea and decided to give it a try. We were not certain about how to begin, so, we went door hopping down the dingy alleys of a cobbler inhabited colony in Kurla, Mumbai.
We discussed our idea with the cobblers residing there but unfortunately many of them felt that the idea was silly as the readymade shoe soles were available in the market.
But we were adamant. We wanted to make a shoe with a tyre sole. Finally, we found a cobbler who was willing to work on our idea. After a few trial and errors, we finally managed to get a few pairs of sandals made with soles made from discarded tyres and this is how our journey begun.
Creating eco-friendly fashion
The soles of our shoes are made from up-cycled rubber - such as discarded tires. This makes our products unique. Additionally, we try to use natural fabric like cotton, canvas, jute, and other vegan material to make our shoes as eco-friendly as possible. Our designs are more on the lines of ethnic Indian fashion. We use natural Indian prints like kalamkari, ikat, ajrak, indigo and so on that lend a rich ethnic look to our shoes.
When we talk about USP, there are 2 aspects differentiating us from our competitors. Firstly, our shoes come with soles from scrap tires and secondly, our approach towards our cobblers. We believe that our cobblers are the backbone of our venture. They deserve to be remunerated for their skills and hard work as they make our products comfortable stylish footwear. We thus pay our cobblers a fair price and stabilize their financial condition and reduce exploitation of this specialized profession.
So while Paaduks is an attempt to make eco-friendly designer shoes, we also envision a prosperous cobbler community. We also make a sincere attempt to adhere to guidelines of internationally agreed fair trade standards.
Customer feedback matters
We shifted from sandals to shoes to improve quality and fit. This transition was based on the insight from one of the customers. Initially, we made printed fabric shoes only in the women's range, whereas the men's shoes and sandals were plain. But, surprisingly many men suggested and asked for printed fabric shoes as well and this is when we introduced colored prints in shoes for men.
Future road map
As of now, we have been growing organically, but we will soon be looking for investments to scale up our operations. Currently, we are being supported by the incubation program at UnLtd India and we are working with them in chalking our growth plan.
Tips for the aspiring entrepreneurs
Go ahead and start your business if you want to! Don't worry about failure, even if you don't succeed, you will gain some great experience. I am sure you will enjoy the journey.