I was pursuing my MBA in Singapore when I came across this concept of Inmates working in Indian prisons for various industries producing pickles, furniture or incense sticks.
Based on this concept of Industries Inside the prison, I submitted my proposal of collaborating with a private company to Tamil Nadu Government in 2013 which wasn’t approved and second proposal to Maharashtra state prison authorities to set up a foot wear making unit at Pune’s Yerwada Central.
The proposal was accepted and my footwear label called ‘Inmate’ – Bringing humanity to leather was launched which provided handcrafted traditionally modern Kolhapuris in 2018.
When I was setting up my brand I used to visit Yerwada every day. I realized how this business model could provide working skills to these inmates and earn a respectable income. But Let me tell you it was not an easy job to convince the prisoners to be workers. These prisoners have a past and would not trust anyone from outside. It was important to build that trust and gain confidence.
It takes six to eight months to train them to produce high quality leather footwear. Most of the inmates are convicts who have at least more than five years to complete their sentence.
We started selling about 30 pairs a month in 2018 and today we sell around 2000 pairs a month.
Today not only these inmates have learned the skill of shoemaking but have mastered in it which will give them an opportunity to land jobs in the shoemaking business post their release.
They are paid daily wages as per the jail manual.
It’s a win- win situation for all of us. The Inmates are able to streamline their life with the wages earned. The Government is indirectly engaging the prisoners and we get a premium footwear product.
We proudly call these Inmates ‘Believers’ because nothing is impossible for believers. They are doers and dreamers for their better future and currently we have 350 believers working with us across two states prison.
I firmly believe that every prisoner deserves a second chance so my aim is not just rehabilitating inmates but their families too who were affected by their actions and provide them a better life in many different ways.
It’s an emotional feeling when the Inmates walk up to me and say that they can finally see a ray of hope for their future.
Follow us on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/storymakersonline/ and
(Interviewed and written by Raavya Sarda)