How Paaduks is changing the lives of cobblers in this eastern suburb of Mumbai?

By : |May 28, 2015 0

MUMBAI, INDIA: The tiny tots in Thakar Bapa Colony, Kurla, an eastern suburb of Mumbai, would have blindly followed their dynasty. They would have grown old making unique shoes from old used tyres, little realizing they had a right to dream, right to education, a better life and some more.

A little revolution is underway at this non-descript cobblers’ colony. Helming this revolution is Paaduks, a start-up which is trying to organize this unorganized community of 7,000 cobblers who migrated from Rajasthan to Mumbai, in search of a better livelihood.

Says Jidnyasa Butley, Head, Operations, Paaduks, “They are gifted artisans who make unique shoes, use the traditional channel of middlemen to sell their wares. That is the reason the community is still mired in poverty as returns of their labor are paltry. Children do not go to school and even if some children do, they do not pursue higher education because of acute poverty, and the concept of healthcare is minimal.”

Initial resistance:
Many cobblers were not aware of the basic right to health and education, and a few who were aware blissfully ignored those as they needed as many hands to process the rubber, design and then make the shoes, for their hand-to-mouth existence.

Jay and Jothsna Rege, Co-founders of Paaduks remark, “During our initial surveys, the cobblers thought we would disrupt their livelihood. We faced a lot of resistance, we still do. But now, at least a handful of cobblers have signed-on with us, and feedback is encouraging.”

Says Butley, “For the few cobblers who are working with us, we have on-boarded their capital risk. With that, we purchase all the shoes and offer them a fixed rate per pair, irrespective of whether the shoes are sold or not. As a result, the cobblers have seen a five-fold increase in their revenues; they have started sending their children to regular school, and are even regular with their health check-ups.”

Challenges Paaduks faced:
Despite the positive response, Paaduks could not scale-up the business model. Rege admits, “We were so focused on building relationships with these cobblers, that we did not pay attention to internal processes. All of us were doing everything and there was a lot of duplication. We did not effectively use technology, and were more focused on the operational issues. That is where the SAP Sabbatical Team entered like a Godsend.”

How SAP helped?
Wolfgang Schuler, Senior Director, Global Business Development and Tica Fetiveau, Lead, Operations Strategy and Transformation, SAP, opine, “This is a young and passionate team, but there was no structure in place. We segregated the roles and functions of each person as per his or her strength, and also helped them put a backend in place.”

Now Paaduks is in the process of appointing sales and marketing professionals and is recruiting interns to increase engagement via social media, and respond to inquiries via email and calls, and capture leads.

The team has also constructed a website, which Butley proudly says is mobile friendly. “We will soon release a mobile app of the unique designer shoes our cobblers make. The idea is to take these designs to the international market. While SAP will help with the tech support and also tie-in the supply and delivery operations, Paaduks is looking at increasing support to 900 cobblers in the near future.”

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