Meet the maker: Apoorva Kamat & Sruthi Kande – Karmantik

To take an audacious leap from a stable job to the dubiety of entrepreneurship is daunting at any age. To drop everything and start your own footwear brand in your early twenties, though, is something else altogether. Meet Apoorva Kamat and Sruthi Kande, the founders of the handcrafted footwear brand Karmantik.

To take an audacious leap from a stable job to the dubiety of entrepreneurship is daunting at any age. To drop everything and start your own footwear brand in your early twenties, though, is something else altogether.

Meet Apoorva Kamat and Sruthi Kande, the founders of the handcrafted footwear brand Karmantik. Apoorva is a graduate from Christ University and has majored in psychology, sociology, and literature. She has also worked in the tribal belt of Rajasthan to support the primary education system for two years. Sruthi, on the other hand, is a graduate from St. Francis College and is an ex-Google employee. She has majored in economics, social management and public administration. The duo, who met at the prestigious Young India Fellowship Programme, decided to sit out of placements to pursue their passion at the age of 23 and 22 respectively — and their story is rather inspiring.

Apoorva (left) & Shruthi (right)

“It all started with a random trip to Connaught Place in Delhi. While strolling around in circles, we spotted at least one cobbler every 100 meters. It made us wonder what the nature of their business was like,” Apoorva reminisces. “In all our time there, we never saw even a single customer who got their shoes mended or cleaned. Out of general curiosity coupled with our perennial love for stories, we indulged in small talk with them. Over several cups of tea, we realised that a majority of them were once artisans who used to make gorgeous hand-stitched shoes, but had to now resort to cobbling on the pavement as they struggled to make ends meet.”

What followed was eight long months of strenuous research during the Young India Fellowship Programme, which helped the duo understand the art of shoemaking, the everyday challenges, as well as the diabolical condition of the ‘Mochi’ community. “We identified the opportunities and gap areas by interviewing several cobblers and craftsmen in Delhi and Rajasthan,” explains Sruthi. “It was then that we realised that the product was not developed enough for an urban market. The major challenges like access to the market and design held them back, forcing the community to quit their traditional artisan skills and hunt for labour jobs to make a living. It was a pitiful situation, to be honest.”

Karmantik, she says, was established to revive and support such craftsmen and their lost art.

The brand also aimed to create products that are peculiar, subtle, and most importantly comfortable. “We make only limited pieces in each design to ensure exclusivity,” Apoorva says. “We solely incorporate handloom fabrics in our design such as kalamakari, ikats, and hand block prints.”

“Our products are extremely comfortable for daily wear and perfect for the Indo-western generation,” adds Sruthi. “They are well padded, slip-resistant smart casuals that one could pair up with almost anything — from a saree, to even your regular tops and jeans. All our designs are inspired by traditional kohlapuri and juti patterns, but possess an elegant twist. We don’t believe in ‘bling’ and we never will.”

Although the products were made for women, the wide spectrum of audience that Karmantik has managed to attract has surprised everyone, including the owners. “Initially focused on young women from urban backgrounds, but our clients today are people from all ages and backgrounds,” Apoorva says. “Although we launched our first collection as a part of the women’s range, we had men buying the same designs and completely owning the look. We’re now aiming for a neutral collection which isn’t defined by either gender.”

As for the future, Sruthi says that the aim is make Indians turn to fashionable, classy, and comfortable footwear. “I guess our audience now comprises of both women and men who value and promote traditional crafts and also love designer footwear!”

Apoorva signs off by adding, “Our immediate plans are to increase our production capacity by collaborating with more shoemakers and create opportunities and openings for them. The long-term goal, though, is to build an entrepreneurial spirit in the craft community which hopefully leads to the revival of the craft. If we manage to achieve that, we’ll be more than happy.”

Visit the Karmantik Shop on Engrave.

To read stories about all our makers click here.

Rameez Shaikh

Rameez Shaikh is a twenty-three year old writer. With a degree in journalism to his name, he's an aspiring author with an absolutely astounding admiration for alliteration. Leisure propels him to read, dance, pen fiction and gloat about himself in third person. On weekdays, he works as a features writer. On weekends, he's a Manchester United fan.

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