Can intricate moorings of a metropolitan carve a career for an explorer? How a city that has been celebrated by authors in their satirical outpourings can become a fancy of an archetypal small townie? The quest for this answer can be cut short if one turns his or her attention to the journey of Pooja Thakur, CEO, Praefinio Footwear. It was a little brightly coloured radio in a colourful cover that caught my attention as Pooja was elegantly perched at a couch next to me at her home in an army cantonment away from the cacophony of the metropolitan. The second thing that came to my sight was a shell which she had collected from a beach long ago. I ended my pursuit to observe more since I realised that hoarding antiques was one of her favourite leisure activity.

She sipped her tea thoughtfully and plunged into the reverie of 2016 when she began her journey with mere two shoe-makers.

As we both sat, we discussed the invaluable endnotes and the creative dexterity of Chiragh-e-Dair, one of the epochal long poems of Ghalib in my hand. She sipped her tea thoughtfully and plunged into the reverie of 2016 when she began her journey with mere two shoe-makers. She had no degree in footwear designing and she got numerous pair of shoes as a part of her preliminary research only to dissect them and to observe their anatomy. Adding to her woes was the distance that she had to cover frequently between her husband’s stations to her prospective factory. Her travail eventually paid off when she established a manufacturing unit in Delhi with twenty workers that manufactures footwear for almost all major e-commerce portals for children such as hopscotch.com, firstcry, and babycouture.

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Her first brand was a sole-less shoe for infants called Bootie Pie. “Kids usually absorb the world through images. Hence, I wished to make something picturesque and affordable for kids. As I child, all I did was drawing and painting. I vividly recall my favourite characters of stories such as Peter Pan, Matilda, Heidi, and The Secret Garden only through their caricatured imagery. I aspire to bring the delicacy and imaginativeness of a child into the entire range of my footwear.” She confesses that she felt deterred at several occasions when she had to peregrinate alone on a late winter night to collect sampling material for shoes from a ghetto locality or while her home in a distant cantonment waited for her lifelessly. But, she manages to pilfer smile among all these moments and has recently launched a new brand Pabla for kids.

I try to delve into further details to sound more exuberant with words, but she was reluctant to reply because of her belief that an act of kindness should be always be silent

Apart from collecting antiques, painting occupies most of her leisure time. This was evident in her paintings of scenes at a fish market in a coastal town to the profound face of Buddha in meditation that adorned the walls of her home. She adds, “I am a quintessential small-townie and love accumulating designs and colours from small markets, preserving recipes inherited by mothers such as pickles and papads, and cooking at home. Art to me dwells in colourful paraphernalia of small town and villages of our country.” Does she have any favourite small town markets? “Difficult to choose one but I like Aminabad in Lucknow, Kinari Bazaar in Agra, Lakkar Bazaar in Shimla and the likes,” she adds quickly.

She returns back to her meditative self and emphasises that the privilledged section of society should realise the significance of giving back to the economically weaker sections of society. Earlier her efforts were confined to the welfare of her workforce, but now she personally aims to finance education of girl children in the maximum possible number. I try to delve into further details to sound more exuberant with words, but she was reluctant to reply because of her belief that an act of kindness should be always be silent. She then resolves, “I draw my inner strength from my laborious and dedicated workforce which works incessantly during tough phases of production. To honour their perseverance, I started salary system for them because there is usually no salary system for unorganised workforce in our country.”

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Her road to being an established children’s shoe manufacturer included a ramble through sketching random designs, synchroninsing her idea of a pair of shoes with that of a shoe-maker, copywriting taglines for her brands, and attending unplanned meetings with buyers. She confides with a churlish smile, “My grocery lists at home often ended up becoming my idea journals for my shoe designs.” And who is the reason behind her zen-like attitude while she handles the crazy commotion of being a shoe-manufacturer and an army wife? To this, she tells me that it has always been her father and her husband. While the former always believed in her dreams and idea of doing good for others, the latter stood by her unfailingly during every crest and trough of her journey. “Our duties transcend us and develop a heightened awareness about our capabilities”, she concludes like a tao monk.

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