Shah Shoes: Offering dancing shoes for stars
May 07 2012, 10:21 | By CNBC-TV18
Shah did not know anything about business or shoes and yet today runs a shoe manufacturing outlet in Dharavi, Asia\'s largest slum.
Image: The Globe and Mail
The story of 30-year-old Jameel Shah is no less than a Bollywood movie. He ran away from home, in Bihar, when he was just 14-years-old, landed in Mumbai with his fingers crossed and 15 years later it is the realization of a dream he never dared to dream.
In 2007, Shah founded Shah Shoes is one of the only professional companies in India to make dancing shoes that are worn by the likes of Kylie Minogue to Kajol. Producing 150 pairs of dancing shoes every month, Jameel's shoes cost anywhere between Rs 1,500 and Rs 3,000. He currently sells in Mumbai, but has plans for a PAN India presence.
A class VII dropout, Shah didn't know anything about business or shoes and yet today he runs a shoe manufacturing outlet in Dharavi, Asia's largest slum and a hotbed of entrepreneurial activities.
Having spent his childhood in the lanes of Dharavi, working in a leather tannery, selling mobile phone covers, chasing the friend who ran away with his money and even as a watchman to make ends meet, Jameel found his calling in the most unusual setting, a Salsa class.
His passion for dance let Jameel to start Shah Shoes with the Rs 5 lakh loan to buy 120 sq ft workshop space at Dharavi. Today, Shah Shoes is the only professional company in India to make dancing shoes. From tinsel-toed salsa stilettos and hip-hop pumps to tap dancing shoes and ballet flats, Jameel has it all carved out. He has a lean army of four to help him out.
But, what is the secret behind the success of Shah Shoes? "My dancing shoes are special because I make them in three pieces to make it comfortable and steady. We have some four-five workers who make those shoes. I have a workshop in Dharavi and I can buy the material from Dharavi itself. Sometimes people say, they want a particular colour and I don't find the same colour or same material in Bombay, which is the main problem I face," explains Shah.
Producing 150 pairs of dancing shoes every month, costing anywhere between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,800, Jameel today has gross revenues of Rs 3 lakh. For this, he gives all credit to his mentor Sandip Soparrkar who not only gave him the moves but also helped him create the perfect dance shoes.
This Dharavi cobbler now has a celebrity clientele from Kylie Minogue to Katrina Kaif and Bipasha Basu. Currently, selling in Mumbai, Jameel has plans for a pan India presence.
However, it is not shoemaking that is Shah's first love, dance is his first love. An assistant to Sandip Soparrkar, he has his name included in the Limca Book of Records 2006 for dancing continuously for 55 hours and 15 minutes. Shah was also crowned the National Champion for Latin Ballroom dancing in 2010. Putting his right shoe forward, Shah has recently opened a coaching center in his native place Doghra in Bihar.
"My dream is to open my workshop all over India. I also want to open my dance store all over India. India doesn't have a dance store because dancers needs dance costumes, dance wear and something related to dance which people don't find elsewhere. I want to open dance stores and my biggest dream is to make US President Barack Obama wear my shoes," concludes Shah.
Mentor Soparrkar shares his first encounter with Shah: "I have known Jameel for almost10 years and when he began, he was not into dancing shoes. He was into dealing with leather products. I remember, one day he came to me as a shoe renter and he told me, Sir, these shoes that you wear, they look very expensive, and I was getting them from London and I was quite upset because my shoes didn't come on time. I had a show coming up and I had those problems. He said, can I try to make a pair of shoe for you? I thought, I'm getting shoes from London and he is going to make it? Finally, I said, you try what you are doing and he came up with a shoe after a few days, which was terrible. I could hit somebody with that shoe. It was so hard that it could not be used for dancing. It was good to wear outside, but not for dancing at all."
"Slowly, I told him what he could do to make it better. He changed and he made over 15 pair of shoes and each time he made a better pair. Today, when I wear Jameel's shoes, it doesn't feel like shoes anymore, it just feels like I am in heaven because it just makes me feel so wonderful. I don't feel any strain of wearing shoes, there is no discomfort and they are so smooth and light that you can roll them up like a cigarette," praises Soparrkar.
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