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Tyre-d soles for a social cause

Jay and Jyothsna Rege work with cobblers in Chembur’s Thakkar Bappa Colony upcycling spare tyres to make footwear. Selling the sandals through their venture Paaduks, profits are set aside for the artisans’ healthcare and their children’s education

About a year ago, when Mumbai-based couple Jay and Jyothsna Rege came across an article about upcycling spare tyres to make slippers, they jumped at the opportunity. They felt it was an ideal way to not only save the environment but also introduce eco-friendly methods in the world of shoe-making.

A cobbler upcycles spare tyres to make a pair of sandals and (below) the final products
A cobbler upcycles spare tyres to make a pair of sandals and (below) the final products

“We didn’t spend too much time on research and headed straight to the Thakkar Bappa Colony in Govandi to meet the cobblers,” says Jay Rege. It took several trips and meetings with a number of cobblers before the couple was able to find a mochi just as enthusiastic about the project as they were. “At first no one seemed to be interested in the idea. We were clueless about where to source the spare tyres from,” recalls Rege. He finally managed to track down some cobblers in Govandi who were using tyres to strengthen Kolhapuri chappals. “They told us where we could source the tyres from. Finally last April, we met cobbler Nagraj Singhadia who was ready to take on the challenge,” he reveals.

Giving back
Soon after the Reges began working and interacting with Singhadia, they realised just how poor the cobblers in the colony were. “About seven or eight of them live in dingy little houses. They’re exploited by retailers, who pay them barely Rs 10-15 per chappal and even that never comes in on time. They’re often sent back with IOU notes. The cobblers end up borrowing money at high interest rates and are, as a result, constantly in debt. Their children’s education is so weak that I’ve met students in the 7th and 8th class who still haven’t learnt to read,” rues Rege, who has since worked with Singhadia’s brother Ramesh, too.

Jyothsna Rege, along with Jay (below),  launched Paaduks in April last year
Jyothsna Rege, along with Jay (below),  launched Paaduks in April last year 

Rather than make a profit out of their venture, the Reges decided to take care of the brothers’ healthcare and their children’s education. “We factor in about R50-60 extra per chappal for the cobbler, which means if one cobbler can make about 500 slippers a month, he can easily earn Rs 25,000,” says Rege, sharing his hopes for the venture.

The secret to shoe success
Unfortunately, Paaduks isn’t doing as well as Rege had hoped it would. “We can’t afford to hire Nagraj or his brother full time as yet. We contact them as and when we get orders and sometimes they manage to procure orders too,” adds the social entrepreneur, who received some much-needed support in terms of expanding networks, planning growth strategy and funding after their social start-up was selected by Unltd India in January.

Rege, who has realised that the secret to selling shoes lies in the aesthetics and not in the social cause they support, is now on the lookout for designers. “I know that the designs we sell currently can’t compete with the stuff other retailers can offer.

They’re very functional designs that the cobblers make themselves. If you keep them on a rack with other chappals, ours won’t be what you will instinctively walk towards,” admits, adding that he hopes to change this once he has a dedicated designer on board.

The upcycled slippers, priced between R599-699, are available at www.paaduks.com

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