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Mochis or cobblers have traditionally belonged to the schedule caste and other backward classes spread across India. Involved in the production of leather footwear, most of them have become involved with other occupations due to lack of capital, opportunities and limited access to markets.
Over a cup of coffee at Akosha University, Apoorva Kamat and Sruthi Kande ended up discussing about the dying art of shoe making and the living condition of cobblers. After many conversations on how to provide sustainable living conditions to the shoe makers, the two started up a social business that works with local artisans of Rajasthan. They are now working with the artisans of Delhi and Haryana to produce exquisite, limited edition Indian handcrafted footwear.
Karmantik intends to encourage the craft of shoemaking and keep the legacy of this art alive by passing its knowledge forward to the future generations
A traditional shoe maker invests 12 hours a day in the production of one product. “The cobblers work constantly with limited comfort in seating and poor lighting, leading to severe deterioration of their health and well-being. These unfortunate circumstances have resulted in a loss of respect, dignity and finesse for this age old art,” says Kande. Many of the cobblers have fallen prey to the streets and are engaged in menial shoe-mending jobs. In the current scheme of things, finding exquisite handcrafted shoes will cease to exist if steps to revive the art are not taken immediately.
“Karmantik desires to provide these craftsmen the respectability, better working conditions, market and livelihood opportunities that their age old indigenous art truly merits”, adds Sruthi, an ex-google employee
While the two energetic girls were starting up, parents were sceptical to see their children move out into an unknown space and try something new. Working on Karmantik required Apoorva and Sruthi to work at the grassroot level of the society, where they would sit down down on the pavement to hear a cobbler’s story. “I felt the gaze of passerbys and autowallas on me, some judging and some confused. Initially I felt uncomfortable, it took me a while to get used to it,” says Sruthi. Today, Karmantik is making indo western footwear especially ‘Handcrafted for your Sole’.
We could be sitting at a fancy office doing something insignificant or sit at the pavement to do something that will make a difference to many families. It is a tough choice we made, and we are proud to stick by it
The founders feel that women today are a part of a very confused society. While at one end, the female community is unsafe to step out of the house, and at the other end you there are role models changing the world one life at a time. But the entrepreneurial girls were clear about their goals and are breaking social taboos at every step. “We are young women traveling all by ourselves, reaching out to men in the communities known for female foeticide, and making business decisions with cobblers. All the things women of our age would not do. But this comes naturally to us,” say the womenpreneurs.
We asked Sruthi about the challenges they face from the society, and she said,
“I started as a 22 year old girl working in Rural Rajasthan, away from my hometown (Telangana) and new to local language. I think was am challenging the society instead!”
Their shoes come in vibrant colours and beautiful designs. Simplistic patterns in fabric curated from all over the country, the footwear gives an all-encompassing youthful and traditional look. This particular Sea Bloom uses faux leather and fabric curated from artisans in Delhi. The summery colours and comfortable straps make it an easy to wear for work or a party, adding the right amount of colour to your feet!
At such a young age, Apoorva and Sruthi know that they can’t enjoy the same kind of personal life like the other people their age are enjoying now.
“It’s a gigantic task we have taken and we know the responsibility it comes with. For a few months we won’t have fancy places to ‘check in’ or party photos to post on Facebook about our weekend shenanigans, because our cause is bigger than us,” say the girls.
Feministaa wishes Karmantik best in their journey of restoring local artisan’s legacy!
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