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You won't believe what they do with discarded sports shoes

By Shriyans Bhandari
Last updated on: April 10, 2015 19:29 IST
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"350 million pairs of sports shoes are discarded every year and 1.2 billion, nearly a population of India’s size, wake up every day without having any footwear whatsoever."

"Being athletes, my founder and I were forced to discard at least three to four pairs of sports shoes each year due to excessive usage."

"Both of us began converting our torn shoes into slippers for personal use."

"We have sold 50 pairs of footwear to public and donated 100 pairs to those without footwear in Mumbai."

Shriyans Bhandari, 20, talks about his inspiration behind starting Greensole, a start-up that aims to market recycled footwear to the world.

Greensole uses discarded sports shoes to make slippers

I'm Shriyans Bhandari, a third year student of Bachelor Management Studies at Jai Hind College Mumbai.

My friend, Ramesh Dhami, is a national level Indian athlete, who hasn’t received any formal education and comes from Uttarakhand.

We are the founders of GreenSole -- an entrepreneurial venture that not just seeks to market recycled footwear but also provide them to billions of people who cannot afford one.

We are pioneering the refurbishing of sports shoes to slippers.

Why GreenSole?

35 crore (350 million) pairs of sports shoes are discarded every year and 1.2 billion, nearly a population of India’s size, wake up every day without having any footwear whatsoever.

Shriyans Bhandari (left) with his co-founder Ramesh Dhani

How did the idea begin?

Ramesh and I being athletes are forced to discard at least three to four pairs of sports shoes each year due to excessive usage.

Having a ‘makers’ mindset, both of us began converting our torn shoes into slippers for personal use.

Soon we realised this could be an exciting venture that could benefit millions and there began the story of GreenSole.

What has the response been so far?

Our novel concept has received some great feedback.

We have sold 50 pairs of footwear to public and donated 100 pairs to those without footwear in Mumbai.

We have two industrial design patents (D262161 and D262162) and these designs are reflected in the products we make.

In our short journey, we have been fortunate enough to get some good mentors like Uday Wankawala (NEN Consultant, Mumbai region), Yaduvendra Mathur (Chairman, EXIM Bank India), Asad R Rahmani (Director of BNHS and has worked as Principal Scientist in various projects) and Maj. Gen. KVS Lalotra (Former Principal Mayo College, Ajmer). 

The journey has given us some recognition, like the second place at Ridea National B-plan competition a few weeks ago.

Earlier this year, we won the Technology and Sustainability Award at Eureka, Asia’s largest B-plan competition at IIT Bombay.

We were rated among the top 25 startups of India by Tata First Dot this year and we are among the top 30 innovators of India, a list made by EDII, Ahmedabad.

Also, last year we won B-Plan competitions at Jai Hind College and NEN.

Life hasn’t been all smooth, we have had to overcome some hurdles, including convincing family, friends, college authorities and other backers of our serious intent.

A team member donates a pair of Greensole slippers

What are our plans next?

It feels wonderful and inspiring to see so many people love what we do. We will make this our life’s mission.

The magnitude of the cause we have undertaken inspires us to continuously strive towards our goal of providing footwear to the most needy and turning sustainable in the long run.

As a market, we want to convert old sports shoes into slippers across India first and then move on to other parts of the world.

It’s hard to digest that half of the world’s population lives on an income less than Rs 150 ($2.50) per day, and even tougher to learn that millions are infected or die each year due to the spread of diseases contracted through unprotected feet.

We are currently running a crowdfunding campaign via Catapooolt and are reaching out to the community to support our efforts.

With the community’s generous backing, we envision to make a difference by utilising our sports shoes better, market recycled footwear, provide footwear to those who cannot afford them and save carbon footprint generated from making new slipper shoes.

To encourage contributors, we have also some interesting rewards, including owning GreenSole -- a pair or more, receiving a copy of my book ‘Birds of Aravallis’ to enabling larger contributors adopt villages in India, where we will provide the villagers with 40 pairs of GreenSole.

This project is really close to our hearts and we hope you will offer your generous support, so together we can make a difference to society in our own little way.

I also hope this inspires many others to take up challenges and solve them with the help of the community -- after all we are in this world together.

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