Giving a New Life to Used Soles

How two athletes after failing to refurbish shoes transformed them into 'cool' chappals

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While training under Savio D'Souza, a former national marathon champion in Mumbai, Shriyans Bhandari and Ramesh Dhami met. Coming from contrasting backgrounds, the fellow athletes had different goals in life but one initiative intertwined their paths. Both dumped multiple pair of shoes after failing to refurbish them. They ended up converting them into chappals by using the same soles.

Shriyans Bhandari and Ramesh Dhami

Inception Story

The duo initially started the activity to prepare footwear for personal use but soon realized its economic worth. They realized that so many shoes are going to landfills, so many people don't have a pair of footwear and came up with a business model to help the underprivileged.

Capital Formula

The duo raised Rs 10 lakh by participating and winning various competitions. They won Rs 3 lakh from the IIT Mumbai Eureka competition and a business plan competition, and another Rs 2 lakh at R-Idea National B-plan. Bhandari's family also contributed towards the cause. Greensole was born in December 2013. They started out with only five workers at a rented 500 sq ft house in 2014.

Corporate Connect

The two social entrepreneurs later tied up with their current vision partner Ram Fashion Exports — a manufacturer and exporter of shoes — which provided them with the necessary guidance in the space. Today, GreenSole has 55 corporate partners to support its initiative including Tata Group, Axis Bank, India Bulls and ONGC, which conduct collection drives in their offices and pay Greensole to refurbish.

Commercially Social

Bhandari, who is the CEO and founder of Greensole, says, "We also provide recycling as a service to companies like Adidas and Liberty. So they don't have to burn or dump their shoes, we refurbish their products for a better cause." The startup charges Rs 200 per pair from the corporates for donating the refurbished footwear on their behalf, keeping a profit margin of 20-30 percent.

Digital Game

The startup has also started selling the footwear online and auctioning recycled celebrity shoes turned into slippers, which gives them a profit of 50-60 percent on the cost price. The startup has donated lakhs of pairs till now. This year, it aims to donate over 1.5 lakh pair of shoes. As of 2017, Bhandari claims to have provided over 70,000 footwears to the children in need.

Carbon Footprint

Greensole's official website claims that manufacturing a pair of shoes involves a total of assembling up to 65 discrete parts in 360 steps, which generates 30 lbs of emissions that is equivalent to leaving a 100-watt bulb burning for a week.

Future Philosophy

The startup's initiative has saved 3,60,000 carbon dioxide emissions (lbs) in the past few years. Going forward, the firm plans to open 30 skill centers in next five years and employ the disabled. Simultaneously, the social entrepreneurs plan to build up their retail presence.

This article was first published in the December 2018 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here