The 50 year old is working on making school shoes

Entrepreneur: A right pair of shoes can change lives. Dodo, a 50-year old entrepreneur believes in this and is adamant to prove it shortly.

In a single storied house in Olakha, Dodo is surrounded with a pile of leathers, soles and a dozen of machines. He has so far made about 30 pair of leather shoes. “These are just samples,” he said.

Every person Dodo consulted before setting up his shoe-manufacturing unit slashed his business idea. “Everyone thinks that it is financially not viable given the emergence of India made shoes in the local market,” he said.

But having undergone trainings in shoe factories in India for the past few years, Dodo claims that he knows the art of shoe business.

He said shoes in India are produced cheaply but the qualities of materials they use are poor and in the process of scaling up production, some procedures are cut short.

By the time imported shoes reach the country, Dodo said the product passes through three middlemen, which makes the product expensive.

So, the competitive advantage Dodo said he has is the lower selling price and better quality shoes.

Dodo, who never attended school however found his niche market in school shoes. “Back in my village, children walk barefoot to school and carry their shoes in their hands,” he said “Parents can afford only a pair for a child and that hardly lasts.”

The father of two school going children’s intention is to produce affordable, durable and comfortable school shoes. Most school shoes in the market, he said, are covered with nylon cloth inside, which traps heat and hurts the feet. Dodo’s school shoes are patched with soft leader inside.

He procures leather and soles directly from factories in India for which he has to become a member of the factory to assure quality. “Otherwise there are lot of cheap materials available in the market.”

Today he has four Indians helping him train four craftsman in shoe making known as finisher, cutter, designer and upper-man. The four Bhutanese would then train other locals and before they scale up production.

Before the end of this month, he aims to launch his first products.

On whether he is aware of branded shoes in the local market, he said that every shoe is made in the same procedure he follows. The only difference, he said is the quality of materials used.

Cattle leather as far as he is concerned is the best but within this too there are distinctions based on different features. “My shoes would be made of the same leather and I can get any type of quality from the factories in India,” he said.

The Bhutan Opportunity and Information Centre (BOiC) funded his Nu 4M project under revolving fund-I. It took him two months to get his project approved and another month to start the ground works. The longest time he spent was on availing an environmental clearance.

To date, he has invested about Nu 1.9M, of which Nu 1.2M was spent on procuring machines. “Although there are big machines of all kind, I bought only those which are absolutely essential.”

BOiC officials said he was the only proponent that came with samples of the product along with the proposal.

Dodo lived this shoe-making dream for a decade and is now conducting a research on the most available shoe sizes in the country.

But there is one issue that is disturbing him. “I am a little concerned about how much I can sell,” he said. “I am more concerned about how much I can produce.”

Tshering Dorji