Thinking on her feet, set foot on the Upcycled Tyre Footwear biz...Success followed.
If you are wearing footwear that has "Nemital" written on it, then it means that you are walking on scrap tyres. Perplexed? Well, you should be, indeed! When I looked at the bright yellow mojhrapuris my friend was wearing the other day, my curiosity couldn't help but enquire about the brand. She said that it's Nemital from Blink Green. Okay! Now I further searched for this brand online to get one for me and was surprised to know the story behind this alluring and affordable footwear. The woman behind this durable footwear fashion is Pooja Apte, a 28-year-old entrepreneur from Pune. Before anything else, I wanted to share her journey with you as it is much more than uplifting to any aspiring entrepreneur.
Take a look!
A Problem That Served As An Opportunity:
Pooja Apte is a 28-year-old earth enthusiast who hails from Pune. She pursued her post-graduation in renewable energy from The Energy and Research Institute(TERI) and like every other passing out the student was immersed in job trials. During this time, she understood that the field of upcycling textile and plastic is barely touched by anyone with very few people working in this sector. After a lot of brainstorming sessions with herself, she decided to work on scrap tyres and the first step to that, she thought, is to research the scrap tyre businesses. According to her findings, she understood that all the existing scrap tyre businesses required huge investments and offered late returns like that of extracting commercial oil, carbon black and making construction rods through the pyrolysis of tyres. Also, if the chemical processes involved in upcycling go wrong, then they lead to pollution. Pooja thus looked for better options and continued her research. “The government also banned reusing tyres for safety reasons, and these discarded tyres are non-biodegradable. So I felt I needed a solution to the problem as well,” Pooja said. As she went on with her research, Pooja learnt that a few African communities use discarded tyres as footwear. She observed that there are no chemical processes involved in making footwear out of scrap tyres and there you go! She picked this option to enter the business sector.
Now, the next step is to make alluring footwear out of scrap tyres bearing better design and reliability factors in mind. After brainstorming, she came up with a few good models. After a few initial trials, she came up with a commercially acceptable model.
StartUp India - A Boost To Her Aspirations:
A series of conclaves called "Startup India" was held across the country to encourage budding startups. Pooja worked with a mentor while getting her prototypes made from a roadside cobbler and presented her idea at "Startup India" organised by the Maharashtra State Innovation Society in November 2018. She won a cash prize of Rs.50,000 in the "Upcoming Woman Entrepreneur" category. From there, with the prize money she received, she laid foundations for the brand "Nemital" under the company ‘Blink Green’.
The Budding Days:
Pooja graduated in December that year and dedicated all her time to develop her venture. The scrap tyres were sourced from an old ragpicker lady and also from a company involved in pyrolysis. In April 2019, she sold a pair of bridal footwear for which she got an amazing response. With this as her boost, she officially launched her business in June 2019. She started taking orders on social media and her initial models focussed on basic comfort and design. However, she found them to be a bit heavy. Later, she found the right thickness and also the type of tyre to be used to cater to different models and foot sizes. She started redesigning the sole to be lighter without compromising on the quality thus making "durability" the main criteria.
"The footwear is the same in terms of quality as any other brand with an added benefit that it lasts longer,” Pooja said. Nemital launched a wide variety of footwear like kolhapuris, Mojris, sandals and heels. In 18 months, she sold about 1000 pairs upcycling 400kg of scrap tyres.
Lockdown Hasn't Locked Her Business Down:
Pooja set the price range between Rs 600 and Rs 1,000 and the cost increases with design complexity and customer requirement. She has hired five karagirs on a contract basis and a full-time designer works as a creative head with her company. The majority of her clients are basically from Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Andhra Pradesh. Before lockdown, she used to make Rs. 50,000 per month but the sales have seen a low-running graph from March till September. From September, her business got its wings back. Aware of the fact of the second and third waves but isn't worried as the biz is sure to bounce back.
“I want to focus on exploiting the Indian market in the current year and reach out to the global market in the next year.”, Pooja concludes.
All the best to the earth-centric entrepreneur who carved opportunity out of the problem. May her business grow beyond expectations and may many others enjoy the fruits of it.
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