Shriyans Bhandari & Ramesh Dhami’s Greensole is giving an eco-friendly makeover to your old footwear
Never throw old shoes again, give them to Greensole for a cool eco-friendly makeover which can help children in need.
Ever thought that your discarded foot wear could be helping a school going child in need? Co-founders Shiryans Bhandari and Ramesh Dhami’s organization Greensole recycles discarded shoes to comfortable footwear, keeping them away from landfills and providing them to children in need. They also retail upcycled footwear, towards building a self-sustaining social venture.
According to reports, there are 35,00,00,000 pairs of shoes being discarded each year worldwide and as per a recent report by WHO, about 1.5 billion people infected by diseases that could be prevented by wearing proper footwear. Manufacturing a new pair of shoes involves assembling up to 65 different parts in 360 steps, which generates 30 lbs. of emissions; equivalent to leaving a 100-watt bulb burning for a week. With their venture Shriyans and Ramesh are trying to mitigate this problem in their unique way.
A Friendship Between Two Worlds
It can only be serendipity that brings two people, from such different circumstances, together for a common cause. Shriyans and Ramesh come from polar-opposite backgrounds; the former from a well to do business family in Udaipur and the later a runaway youth from Garhwal, who spent his adolescent years fending for himself on the streets of Mumbai. Yet they found themselves on common ground while marathon training with coach Savio D’Souza at Priyadarshini Park in South Mumbai. At the time Shriyans was pursuing his graduation at Jai Hind College and had authored a book called ‘Birds of Aravallis’ in association with Rajasthan Tourism and BNHS India. While Ramesh was trying to make ends meet by working as an assistant to the coach. “I was very impressed with all that Shriyans had achieved at such a young age. He had launched his book at that time and I felt like I should also do something better with my life”, says Ramesh.
Ramesh’s story is akin to a movie script; he ran away from home at the age of 12 and spent a few years in Uttaranchal working at a mithai shop before coming to Mumbai with dreams of becoming a Bollywood actor. Without any familial support or money, he spent his nights sleeping on the streets, foraging in garbage and fell into the world of petty crime and drug abuse. “I struggled a lot after coming to Mumbai. I didn’t have any money and fell into all sorts of bad ways.” It was through an NGO ‘Saathi’ that he got help with de-addiction and counselling and got engaged in some vocational training and extracurricular activities. It was also through them that he ran his first marathon in 2008, completing it in 131 minutes. This is when he realized that athletics and fitness could be something that he could do.
In 2011 the NGO, that had helped him get back to his feet, shut down and he was left without a roof over his head. He realized he had to do something to make ends meet and decided to give fitness coaching a try. Coach Savio D’Souza, who had coached him earlier, helped by giving him a job as his assistant and this is where he met Shriyans.
The Big Idea
As athletes, Shriyans and Ramesh ran hundreds of kilometers every year, running through at least three to four pairs of expensive sport shoes each year. The soles would be in good condition, but the shoe sides would tear within months. Ramesh would try different ways to patch his shoes using his t-shirt or other materials and after some trial and error realized that he could convert them into slippers with the sole intact. His idea intrigued Shriyans who suggested they develop it further and apply for a Business Plan competition at Jai Hind College. To their amazement, the idea was amongst the top ideas at the B-Plan competition. Encouraged by the feedback they applied for funding at other places including a competition at IIT Mumbai. They got a great response and could raise almost 10 lakhs from various sources to start their venture.
“I fell into entrepreneurship by accident”, says Shriyans. “Since the idea was appreciated, we finetuned the product and developed it further. From the very beginning our venture showed results, be it the donation drives or the partnerships or the publicity we received.” For such a young guy, Shriyans showed immense maturity and perseverance in recognizing the potential of the idea and doing all that he could to take it to the right platforms. “I have seen what it takes to grow a business from the ground up. My family has been in business, so a job was never an option. When this idea took off, my family was very supportive. I feel quite lucky to be a part of this noble initiative. The fact that we can make an impact at such a young age keeps me going”, says Shriyans.
But it has not been an easy journey for the two entrepreneurs. They made a lot of mistakes and learnt a lot in the process. For Ramesh, this was a major turnaround in his life. He gave it his all, delving into the technicalities of making the shoes, researching and learning how to make the shoes in the most economical way possible. “When I look back I feel that the Ramesh before Greensole was a different person, I feel as if the old Ramesh is dead and this is a new me. Life gave me a fresh start. Now I feel that if I ever fall into a bad situation again, I will have the will and know-how to get out of it”, says Ramesh. Wise beyond his years, Ramesh comes across as one eager to help others by sharing what he learnt in life. In the future he hopes to help other kids like him by providing education counselling to 1st to 8th grade children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Goals and Achievements
Greensole has received appreciation letters from President Barack Obama and Sir Ratan Tata and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, Vogue and BBC among others. Till date, they have made about 72000 shoes and are going strong with their donation drives. They also provide skills training to people from poor economic backgrounds so as to give them a sustained means of income.