Our journey in search of grassroots problems began from Sadra village, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. We, ten engineering & design students with more than a dozen of primary school kids visited Mr. Keshav Lal Daya Lal Mochi. He is a cobbler by profession who loves his craft. The objective behind this was to understand what private troubles do people from his profession face and how can we provide a solution by innovating. He explained the process of shoe making to the team lucidly. His arsenal of tools included a Ropi (cutter), Vainu (flattens leather), hammer, iron leg and jumbu (plucking nail). All tools in total only cost about ₹500-₹600. Iron leg that he used was 100 years old and was serving from last two generations. It’s made of pure iron, such that’s rare to find today. Nowadays they make it with ‘bid’ which cracks on continuous hammering. There are following types of leathers available in the market like Bullock (₹20-₹25/Kg), Desi Goat (₹200/Kg), Aeroplane rubber (₹70-₹80/Kg), Seat, GBR, Rexine, and Fibre. One pair of shoe takes 2.5 days to prepare and they can hardly make ₹20-₹25 in profit by selling one. In a town with population less than 5000 even selling a shoe daily is tough. They claim that their shoes are long lasting and can work for up-to 5 years. His display included twenty different pairs of shoes & sandals. All of them looked like the one you’d see in a showroom from outside but they lacked a good ‘sole’.
Kids awestricken asked him various questions on his craft. Following are few of their observations with probable solutions.
Pain in back and hand due to hammering.
Chance of getting injured due to sharp tools and nails.
Prone to skin disease and allergies to due polish and leather. Kids suggested the use of aerated gloves.
Handmade shoes have gone out of fashion.
Concern regarding the falling economics of business.
Our engineering and design team looked at it from the perspective of improving economics. We understood one thing that people will only accept our innovation if it improves their economics. Following ideas where suggested by our team.
Creating a platform to sell their products online. This will increase their market reach. It can be a marketplace for customized shoes.
Since most of their cuttings were based on experience hence there was no standardization. We designed a variable stencil to cut leather.
Formal shoes can be rented to college students on daily basis that they occasionally need like in cases of campus placements or while giving a presentation.
Our team also worked on the design of a universal machine that would semi-automate their work hence increasing their productivity, we called it ‘Cobble’s Friend’.