Shriyans Bhandari and Ramesh Dhami were regular athletes who used up at least three to four pairs of shoes every year. This prompted them to find ways to reuse and recycle discarded footwear and distribute those to the underprivileged. Thus, was born Greensole in December 2013. "The vision was to create an infrastructure of footwear on every foot. The idea was to help bridge the social, economic and environmental gap in the country," recalls Bhandari.
The enterprise took baby steps by putting boxes at Mumbai park to collect discarded shoes. The duo soon became one of the top 30 innovators by the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, Ahmedabad. The money won through that and other design and sustainability competitions were then invested into starting the social venture. "Initially, we thought to reuse the shoes for personal use. But the idea grew into a social business venture," says Bhandari.
Greensole has collection centres across the country. Volunteers at the organisation collect torn shoes from donors and then send them to the manufacturing unit. "As entrepreneurs, we know that our problems will be unknown and so will our solutions be. We don't term anything as a challenge anymore and go with the flow of solving the unknown challenges and finding the solutions," feels Bhandari.
From 2013-2020, Greensole upcycled 364,000 pairs of shoes. The revenues increased from Rs 2 million in 2015-16 to Rs 25.3 million in the last fiscal. The company has to date donated over 300,000 pairs of slippers in 13 states across 750 schools.
The company has now taken the e-commerce route as well by selling their refurbished products on their own website as well as partnered through sites such as Amazon. "Any idea can work if you put an effort into it. A basic effort is required day in day out to turn your dream into a social enterprise. There are no special criteria to be an entrepreneur. There is complete openness to running a business and make an impact," says Bhandari.
What made Bhandari a Face of Vibrant Bharat?
“Greensole’s model of recycling resources is a unique combination that bridges the social and environmental gap. Its ability to retail refurbished products makes the organization sustainable yet commercially viable. A business model like this is fit for the future and has the power to bring long-term change and be environmentally sensitive as well.” Naveen Malpani, Partner, Grant Thornton Bharat LLP
"More than 1.5 billion children in India don't have access to basic footwear. Bhandari has developed a very strong business, bridging this gap by putting his soul into transforming used soles into comfortable footwear for children in need. The efforts deserve social recognition." Aman Dhall, Founder, CommsCredible