They say good shoes take you to good places. The team at leisure footwear brand Solethreads, the winner of Propel Accelerator season 2, would agree. Solethreads is trying to carve out a niche in the crowded footwear space by indexing on sustainability in terms of how materials are sourced, recycled and put to use.
PETA-certified footwear brand
"We are possibly the only PETA-certified footwear brand in the country," co-founder Vikram Iyer told About Amazon India. The company uses recycled plastic and remolded old rubber (to make shoe soles) besides making straps that are made of plant-based vegan extract. Solethreads even has slippers carved out of yoga mats. All of its products are 100% recyclable, and are manufactured in-house. Its products boast of ultra-modern designs and are tailored for the global market, Iyer says. On Amazon.in, Solethreads’ slides, flipflops and other products are available starting at Rs 549.
Diversity at work
Besides focusing on getting its designs and the eco-friendly arc right, the three-year-old company’s attention to building the right culture internally might have also struck a chord with jury members of Propel Accelerator Season 2 (read about Graduation Day here). "Diversity is a big part of how we think, that's why our workforce has always comprised of 50% women," says Aprajit Kathuria, CFO and co-founder.
Learning from Season 1 winners
The Solethreads founders wish to embark on a global journey and hence they participated in Season 2 of the Propel Accelerator program, an initiative first launched in January 2021 to help early-stage startups in the consumer products segment become international brands. As part of the program, a cohort of select startups receive 1:1 mentorship from industry leaders and get a platform to interact with potential investors. For topping the charts on Graduation Day, sustainable lifestyle brand Ecoright, packaged food venture Go Desi and Solethreads cumulatively bagged $100,000 in equity-free grants from Amazon and $300,000 in AWS Activate credits.
“We came to know about the program from the brands that participated in the Season 1 and their success thereafter definitely influenced us,” says Kathuria. Healthy snacks brand Slurrp! Farm, Feminine hygiene venture Sirona, and nutraceutical startup Wellbeing Nutrition were the winners of the program’s inaugural season in 2021.
Kathuria and Iyer kept a close watch on how Season 1 startups were propelling across different categories, segments, and industries to make a strong pitch for Season 2. “We closely monitored how brands succeeded and leveraged the Propel program to make their presence felt beyond the Indian market,” he adds.
Solethreads is now looking to expand their business in the United States, the UAE, the United Kingdom, and Australia. “The industry insights and consumer knowledge that you gain by associating with the Propel program are immense,” says Iyer.
In the last couple of months with Propel, we have had so many opportunities to interact with industry stalwarts, venture capitalists, and peers. We have learnt a great deal from them about the nuances of building a global business, serving global customers with varying preferences, benefits of going directly to customers worldwide, and much more.
The Amazon factor
Solethreads, since its inception has been associated with Amazon. “I feel that Amazon’s ethos completely blends with ours, which is consumer centricity,” says Kathuria. He further points that “Amazon is doing a lot to build the startup ecosystem, coordinating with government to boost trade and further develop the MSME sector in India.”