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Written and Contributed by

Earthen Tunes
Chennai, Tamil Nadu.


Earthen tunes footwear addresses three problems with one design solution:
1. Farmers walking barefoot leading to long-term health problems.
2. The waste created by the disposal of footwear.
3. A sharp decline in the number of weavers involved in the wool craft.

What is the project about?

Globally about 1.5 billion people are affected by diseases that are caused by walking barefoot. Although there is a common notion among people that walking barefoot is good for health, the present soil compositions and terrain conditions in rural India are not healthy to do so.

A typical farmer runs through at least 7-8 pairs of footwear per year and ends up spending about 700-1000 INR annually to purchase footwear that is not built for the conditions that they work in. These huge numbers of pairs discarded every year also contribute to the waste. Annually it is estimated that about 350 million pairs of footwear are discarded and 98% of these end up in landfills. If not today, tomorrow we would have to address the issue of sustainability in footwear which is one of the largest pollutants.

Desi wool has been woven into blankets by the pastoral communities for a long period. These blankets are woven on the earliest forms of pit loom, making this craft one of the oldest crafts of our soil. A typical blanket takes about 4-5 days to be woven. These blankets are known by various local names such as Ghongadi, Kambali, typically last for 25-30 years due to how they are tightly woven.

These blankets are an integral part of the shepherd’s attire and protect from the harsh weather conditions throughout the year. In many parts of the Deccan region, Ghongadi is used to cover the head like a protective shield against the harsh weather conditions throughout the year including monsoons. These blankets are also known to have anti-dust, anti-microbial and therapeutic properties. These unique properties of desi wool make it an ideal material that could be used for making footwear for Indian Conditions.

Despite these fascinating properties of desi wool blankets, the craft of making them is on the verge of extinction. The decrease in demand for wool blankets and the rearing of meat-based breeds over wool-based breeds has led to a sharp decline in the number of weavers involved in this craft. We believe our shoes could be a way to revive the demand for this wool and help resurrect the desi wool economy again.

After applying the principles of design thinking and carrying out extensive field research, prototyping and testing we were able to design and manufacture a shoe that is made from locally sourced desi wool.

These shoes can be used all around the year in summer, winter and rainy conditions. The shoe can also be used on the farm and outside of it. They can be worn without socks and keep your feet sweat-free and odour free. The rugged moulded construction of the shoe also makes it ideal for use in farm conditions.

Along with the field trials carried out with farmers in rural Maharashtra, our shoe has also been lab-tested at CLRI according to the SATRA standards.

Project Funded by

We received an initial seed fund of 10 lac from RTBI -IIT madras incubation cell to start our initial production.
But for our monthly expenses, we are still being supported by our family and friends.

Stakeholders Involved

1. Mr Kanna Siripurapu from WASSAN for introducing us to the wool ecosystem and the weaving community.
2. IIT MADRAS Incubation Cell and MR.VM Rajasekharan for mentoring us.
3. Mr Daleep Raina from Agra for helping us out in manufacturing when we needed it the most.
4. Centre for Pastoralism for helping us out in wool research.
5. Dharamitr (Wardha) for research in banana, jute and cotton fibre.
6. Mission Sammridhi (Wardha) for introducing us to the farmer supply chain.
7. Sewagram Ashram (Wardha) for research in Khadi and Gandhiji’s principles on circular manufacturing.
8. Coir Research Institute (Alappuzha, Kalavoor) for research in coir.
9. Kottapuram Integrated Development Society (Kerala) for research in screw pine and water hyacinth fibres.
10. Our NID batchmates Pratheek P Ashok, Pranav Prasun, Anand E Sukhdev for helping us out at various points in our journey.
11. Mr Chaitanya Solanki for clicking photographs of our products.
12. Sachin and Swapnil Mhetre for hosting us and helping us out in Baramati.
13. Various artisans in Ambur and Kolhapur for teaching us the basics of shoemaking.

What is the impact?

To design our shoes, we interacted with about 500 people involved directly or indirectly in farming and its allied activities. We pilot tested our shoes with about 30 farmers in rural Maharashtra. For our first production run, we have procured close to 270 blankets directly from weavers in turn providing them about 3000 hrs of employment. Our first lot of shoes is expected to impact about 750 farmers directly.

Photos by Earthen Tunes | © all rights reserved

Links to read more:

Better India Article

About Earthen Tunes:

Earthen Tunes, founded by the alumni of the National Institute of Design-Ahmedabad, Earthen Tunes is a social enterprise trying to build a better India for the future.

It is presently being incubated by the Rural Technology and Business Incubator at IIT-Madras.

The Co-founders pursued Masters in Transportation and Automobile design in the NID Gandhinagar and completed their under graduation in engineering before this. Before starting Earthen Tunes, the team had worked in various fields ranging from electric vehicles, mobility for the disabled, Indian railways to marketing and management in oil marketing giants.