Published: 26th May 2021
Three NID Ahmedabad students rediscovered Dakini wool and are now making shoes for farmers from it
Also, they are incubated at IIT Madras. How cool is that? Earthen Tunes is certainly off to a good start and if all goes well, they will certainly launch their exclusive shoes for farmers on June 15
The hands that grow our food are praised endlessly, but what about the feet that walk on these treacherous fields, laden with pesticides, snakes and other health hazards? We are glad to have found a bunch of youngsters who cared about it enough to actually research and manufacture shoes that are made from a material that is familiar to these farmers, but also go a long way in protecting them. "Walking barefoot comes with romantic notions in urban areas as 'being in touch with earth', but farmers don't have an option here, they suffer because of it," says Santosh Kocherlakota. That's why in 2018, when he and his co-conspirators Vidyadhar Bhandare and Nakul Lathkar travelled to Nanded, Kolhapur, Wardha and other distressed regions of Maharashtra in search of rural problem statements, they decided to work on this one. After their fieldwork, when research brought them face-to-face with cold, hard facts, like annually, over 50,000 deaths occur due to snakebites and that approximately, 1.5 billion people are affected with diseases transmitted by soil, they knew exactly where to pour in their blood, sweat and tears. Thus, the start-up's name came to be Earthen Tunes. Santosh, Vidyadhar (31) and Nakul (30) met at NID Ahmedabad and worked with various start-ups initially. After some time, they realised that they have good synergy and worked on their own start-up.
The team members | (Pic: Earthen Tunes)
Dakini wool — this was the secret ingredient that they knew will take their shoe game to the next level. Since this natural fibre — known as kambali in Maharashtra and ghongadi in the Telugu-speaking states — was familiar to farmers, there was a brighter chance of them adapting to it. "Initially, the pastoral community in certain areas of the three states were dependent on this wool for their livelihood. But because the feel of this wool has been slightly coarse in recent times, people have started opting out of it and these farmers have been forced to switch to rearing cattle for meat. This gave us an opportunity to make shoes with wool that was fading away and offer more livelihood options to the farmers," describes 31-year-old Santosh, who was born and brought up in Hyderabad.
A farmer shows off his shoes | (Pic: Earthen Tunes)
As these developments were bearing fruit, the trio applied, with confidence, to be incubated at IIT Madras in April 2019, but the premier institute wanted to see the idea in action first, so they were offered a three-month pre-incubation. When 28 of the 30 shoes they had piloted were sold out within their first week, there was no doubt left in anyone's mind and they are now successfully incubated at IIT Madras, plus, they received ten lakh in funds. That's not the only good news this youngster — who pursued his MDes in Transportation and Automobile Design from NID Ahmedabad, where he met his co-founders — had to share: "If all goes well, in terms of the pandemic, we will be launching these shoes on June 15, 2021."
Top view | (Pic: Earthen Tunes)
While the pilot shoes were made by expert weavers, the next batch of 1,000 shoes will be made by leather experts in Agra. Slippers are a strict no-no and Western boots are too hot for our arid region, hence, this particular material when paired with a tough sole, proves to be perfect for farmers. No socks needed, it has anti-dust properties and is water-resistant too. "Nowadays, we have shoes catering to all kinds of groups, office-goers, school students, then why not farmers?" reasons the entrepreneur. Got to agree with him there.
For more on them check out earthentunes.in