She took the initiative to make fashionable and durable footwear for men and women.
Pune based Pooja wanted to produce an eco-friendly product that is both aesthetically pleasing and durable. So, she herself started designs the fashionable footwear.
While working 4 years in Capgemini, she also enrolled for an MBA in renewable energy, but later, she left her job to start up her own business. She gives rise to her own footwear brand known as Memital, which in Sanskrit means: ‘memi’ meaning chakra, and ‘tal’ meaning sole.
“After leaving my job, I started researching different methods of upcycling and came across tire scrap. There is enough of it around and I was wondering what new thing can be done with it. Usually, waste tires are used only in bigger industries as breaking it down (pyrolysis treatment) is very expensive and if not done in the right way, can cause air pollution. I thought upcycling them would help the environment as well,” Pooja explains.
“Very few people are aware that in the olden days, airplane tires were used to increase the durability of the footwear. These days, only cobbler’s use bit to repair footwear. No one uses the scrap and it’s totally an unorganized sector,” she adds.
She presented two prototypes of Memital at Startup Yatra organized by Start-up India in association with Maharashtra State Innovation Society in October 2018. In finals held in Nagpur, Pooja won the upcoming Woman Entrepreneur award and also a cash prize of Rs. 50,000. BlinkGreen has produced 70 pairs of footwear as of now.
Memital’s 30 designs have all been made by Pooja herself. The venture has not been without its fair share of challenges.
“Getting the cobblers to handcraft the shoes was difficult. They felt it was no longer viable as it was in the past. Also, the industry is hugely male-dominated. When I visit the Thakkarbappa Wholesale Footwear Market in Kurla, Mumbai many advised me to have a bodyguard along with me. I am unfazed and, in fact, plan to source material and cobblers from there,” says Pooja.
In the initial days of her business, she herself was worried about the decision she has taken. Being the sustainable innovation, the footwear making from scrap has many benefits as it lasts longer than those available in the market, whereas if we look on the negative side, the footwear is slightly heavier than those made with other materials. The footwear cost you around Rs. 500/-.