mid-day's 39th anniversary: They walk the talk

By Ashlesha Athavale | Mumbai

Updated: Jun 29, 2018, 09:45 IST

Two friends with different destinies meet to reduce the burden on our planet and make a slipper for every foot

Shriyans Bhandari

Shriyans Bhandari and Ramesh Dhami, 23
Co-founders, Greensole

This start-up with a heart was conceived when its co-founders met at Napeansea Road's Priyadarshini Park for a run. Shriyans Bhandari, a sports enthusiast from Jai Hind College, and Ramesh Dhami, a national level athlete from Uttarakhand, had a common crib — their shoes fell apart every few months, but the soles remained intact. Dhami had recycled a pair of American sports shoes into slippers after reusing the soles. The friends experimented with recycling footwear on Bhandari's suggestion and exhibited their unique innovations at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, Ahmedabad, in 2014. They were selected among the top 50 innovators and asked to patent the idea. "We won over Rs 10 lakh in competition prizes following this!" says Dhami.

Around 35 crore pairs of sports shoes are discarded every year and 1.2 billion people wake up every day without owning footwear. The statistics they stumbled on proved to be the root of a socially-conscious business idea.

It was a recycled pair of slippers that Ramesh Dhami created from old sports shoes that led to the idea behind Greensole. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

This led to the creation of Greensole, their label for recycled footwear, in 2015. Since then, over one lakh pairs have been created at their MIDC, Mahape workshop, to put a spring in the step of underprivileged children across 10 Indian states. Not only is this a charity experiment, it is also a successful sustainable business model because it keeps discarded shoes away from landfills. And with the hope that each one of us will pitch in by donating either funds or worn out footwear, Greensole's long term vision is to have footwear on every foot, forever. Refurbishing a pair costs Rs 199, an amount the donor bears, and Greensole's old footwear collection centres are spread from Mumbai to Karnal. Alternatively, donors can buy a pair from their trendy range, made from recycled PVC rubber. And so, while the government does its job to disburse free books and bags to school kids, Greensole takes care of what they walk to school in.

It helps that Bhandari, a post-graduate in business from Babson College in Massachusetts, hails from a family of entrepreneurs. Dhami was less fortunate, having grown up in an orphanage at Agripada. But what they had in common was the drive to run a socially conscious enterprise.

This year, Greensole won yet another award at the first edition of the Lexus Design Award, which seeks to reward the best industrial designs executed by Indian designers, design consultancy firms and design divisions of Indian companies. The duo is exporting their fashionable and sturdy range to China, and their partner list includes Adidas and Skechers, while some other brands collaborate by donating footwear components. "I want to see Greensole become as big as Adidas," Bhandari signs off.

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