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Hitesh Kenjale, Founder of “Desi Hangover – premium handmade shoes” Supporting the Oppressed Artisans of India and getting their Craft the Limelight it deserves, Shares His Startup Story

Hitesh Kenjale Desi hangover

Please Introduce yourself.

My name is Hitesh Kenjaledes (Founder of Desi Hangover) and I am from Mumbai. I completed my education in Electronics and Telecommunication from Mumbai University (MU). Entrepreneurship has been close to my heart and I wish to create change in the rural areas of India.

When and how did you think about Desi Hangover?

During my third year, engineering, I got a chance to go to Cairo, Egypt for an internship. Just before leaving my dad gave me a pair of local “Kolhapuri chappal” that I could wear as room slippers. In an intern house of 25 interns from all over the world, I received immense appreciation for this Chappal. That’s when I realized that quite contrary to the Indian market, this product had a positive demand on an international platform. They were amazed to know that the footwear was handmade and had a legacy of around 800 years. They sure knew about Italian shoes but not of this Indian art. Over Shisha I discussed the above incident with a fellow Indian intern (Lakshya Arora, co-founder) who shared my enthusiasm.

The incident intrigued us to want to study about Kolhapuris. So once I came back to India I traveled every weekend (For seven months) to Kolhapur to understand the entire chain. One incident in specific triggered the launch of Desi Hangover. During my research I always carried a camera and a notepad, which misled the locals to think of me as a journalist. With the same misconception in mind, a teary eyed old man came to me to share his story. He had spent all his life in shoe making and now there was no market left for his product. His art was dying a slow death and so was his community. To add to the dilemma, he didn’t even have any farmland or a secondary occupation to support his family. “Making shoes is all I know!” he said summing up his story. The only way I could help him was by selling his shoes and before that, making them “sell-able”. That’s the day, Desi Hangover was etched in my mind.

We developed the product at hand and then moved towards the most important milestone. Selling the first shoe. Facebook helped us cross that along with innumerable other milestones. Our brand was practically built on social media platforms and till date, it is an indispensable part of our marketing as well as sales initiatives.Today we are a team of 9 people, exporting the product to 7 countries.

Introduce your Co-Founder/Founders and Team.

Lakshya Arora- Studied BA from Punjab University with majors in Journalism

Abha Agrwal- Electronics Engineer from MU and a professor prior to DH.

Explain more about Desi Hangover, what makes you special and how is it different from others?

Supporting the oppressed artisans of India and getting their craft the limelight it deserves, Desi Hangover has saved a dying ancient tradition. A craft, which is more than 800 years old, is finally receiving the recognition it needed. DH assures skill based education, technological and medical support for the artisans, while they happily continue to create perfect handmade footwear. With an improved lifestyle, the artisans are earning their livelihood, doing what they do the best.Our process involves a morally conscious start with premium sourcing of raw materials. It is out of quality leather that our skilled artisans carve the Desi footwear. Profits from every sale are sincerely directed towards our “Adopt a school” campaign. The school that we have currently adopted is the very place where our artisans send their children. This school is wholly run by the profits generated from the footwear that these artisans craft.

Hence the community art efficiently takes care of the primary educational needs of the village. Providing facilities like water and electricity, we have created an appropriate academic environment for the students. From protecting them from the chills of the floor to providing them with the necessary resources to study, we have covered the primary infrastructural needs of the school. Today, the students learn using digital technology, they are getting a school that beacons them for learning and playing. One smile, started a chain of smiles and one change is touching hundreds of lives. We give these artisans an employment for their livelihood, a platform for their art, and education for their children.

Desi hangover, truly believes in a holistic approach towards business. Due to correct marketing today these shoes attract global appreciation. The right sources, the right tools and the right skill is precisely why these cobblers have turned into artisans. We have preserved their past, secured their future and given them a quality life for their present.Thanks to our customers, today this community generates its own revenue, runs its own school and preserves its own heritage.

As far as our products and services are concerned, we ensure the best input to get the desired output. Our foot wear goes with any and every outfit. We believe style has no barriers. The Unisex footwear has made quite some noise in the international market.

What challenges did you face while setting up Desi Hangover? How did you overcome?

Desi Hangover comes across many challenges as a budding enterprise. Prioritizing the moral grounds on which we built this enterprise, we use only premium leather. This leather is much more expensive than leather the procured from other sources and demands quite a chunk of our capital. The artisans who work for us strive to keep their art alive despite their family issues. This perseverance puts even more pressure on us to get their hard work and dedication in the limelight. We learn from our experiences and believe in our mission.

Our premium handmade leather footwear has managed to create a brand name for us in the fashion world. In the last 6 months, there has been a high demand for our shoes from several countries. Thanks to its versatile design and ethical sources, our footwear is in demand in the Indian as well as foreign markets. Desi hangover is being appreciated not only because of its product but also because of its business model. We do feel, this is the right time to expand our horizons. Production constraints however hold us back at the moment.

What’s the current Path and future plan?

Post its research and development period, the start-up began with a humble average of 98 sales per month during the financial year 2014-2015. The product was widely appreciated which inevitably reflected in the sales of the next financial year. In 2015-2016, the company had an average of 250 sales a month. The projected average sales of 2016-2017 go up to 1200 sales per month. Boundless growth in the international market is another prominent prospect in the near future. We plan to build toilets and benches for the school we adopted. By the end of this year we hope to achieve for our school a complete academic ecosystem.

Visit : DesiHangover.in

Facebook : facebook.com/DesiHangover

 

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