Startup Sunday || Season 3 Episode 29 || Neeman’s Shoes

All natural, stylish, and comfortable shoes, which cater to all your needs and have the potential to turn into an environmental revolution — sounds like the perfect sustainable business idea, right?

Founder duo Taran Chhabra and Amar Preet Singh have put this business idea into action and are on their way to achieve their mission with Neeman’s, an online but not quite another shoe company. First in India, this Hyderabad-based startup has come up with a range of shoes — sneakers, loafers, and joggers — made from Merino Wool fibre that is environment friendly. So, how did the founders come up with the idea of making sustainable shoes? It all started suddenly while travelling. Sometimes your experiences can give birth to a business idea – an opportunity that has the potential to turn into a revolution.

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The idea behind Neeman’s came about when Taran was travelling, and he nearly missed a train, the reason being over-packing! The culprit was separate pairs of shoes for specific activities and it was the ‘no one-size-fits-all’ problem that led Chhabra to start thinking about designing one multi-purpose shoe that would be comfortable for all-day wear — be it casual or formal dressing needs to even exercise as well as do other activities. Most of the shoes available in the market use synthetics, plastic, petroleum byproducts, liquid petroleum gas, and natural gas, resulting in massive carbon footprint. These products are non-biodegradable and take long time to decompose causing harm to the environment. The desire to make Neeman’s’ shoes as environment-friendly as possible, became a pledge for the co-founders.

THE MAKING OF NEEMAN’S SHOES

The Neeman’s founders wanted to blaze a new trial by completely doing away with synthetic materials in the shoes they produced. Naturally, it wasn’t easy, a lot of trial and error went into the making of the shoes until, the founders tried Merino Wool. The wool, which comes from Merino sheep in Australia, is naturally renewable, soft, anti-bacterial, moisture-absorbing, odour-resistant and designed to be worn all year round. It is also very durable. It was just what the customer needed. The company collaborated with The Woolmark Company in developing the Merino Wool fabric. “I reached out to a company called the Woolmark Company, a non-profit funded by Australian wool farmers. I explained to them how India is a big market and how these wool-based shoes would be great for Indian weather conditions and that we could do with an environment-friendly shoe,’’  Chhabra explained.

Neeman’s shoes comprises of a detachable insole made of renewable rubber and castor bean oil, as opposed to the commonly used, harmful petroleum-based oil. The shoe lining is abrasion-resistant, soft, and durable and perfect for Indian weather conditions, both for extreme summers and winters.

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A SUSTAINABLE BRAND?

Neeman’s follows a direct-to-consumer model for its sales through its website and has a seven-day trial policy during which customers can return the shoes if they don’t like them. Being environment friendly is so ingrained in the DNA of the company that even the boxes used to ship the shoe are 85% recycled waste paper. Ensuring productive and friendly working conditions for their employees and the workers who assemble their shoes is paramount for the founders. They ensure that each link in the supply chain reflects the mission of the company.

Neeman’s has no plans of liaising with other ecommerce players at the moment but plans to open experiential offline stores to enable its customers to experience the shoes before purchasing them.

Wool-based shoes have been gaining popularity the world over for various reasons. While Neeman’s is aligned in spirit with the environmentally conscious buyer, we will have to wait and watch for its impact in India, considering the slightly steep price points of the shoes, the road conditions in the country, and the general apprehension people have about trying something new. The company, however, has started out with a positive customer response and is very hopeful that more people join Mission Neeman’s.

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