Creating handcrafted leather footwear, Akshay dreams big

Creating handcrafted leather footwear, Akshay dreams big

Akshay Kurade with his handcrafted footwear.

Photo Credits: The Goan

He is a self-employed Goan youth from Bastora, Mapusa studying in the second year of Arts at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). With a low vision, Akshay Kurade has run his own business for the last five years and has recently opened a shop at the Panaji Kadamba bus stand. Not knowing that there were schools for the blind with different subjects, Akshay completed his education till SSC from Holy Cross High School at Bastora sitting along with other students and learning the same subjects.

Akshay recalls, “Maths was difficult for me as I could not see any math solving on the board. So I failed in that one subject in SSC. Then luckily I learnt that I could complete my 12th from NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling), which I did. They don’t have Maths and Science, which made my study easy. I also did computer courses like NVDA and JAWS from the National Association for the Blind (NAB). It took me six months to get trained in NVDA – an end-to-end course to learn accessibility through NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) – an extensive program about the screen reader Non-Visual Desktop Access, the application of which makes any computer working on the Windows operating system accessible for visually impaired persons.”

After NVDA Akshay now uses Windows computer independently without assistance from anyone. He can surf the internet using web browsers or access applications like Microsoft Office and mail clients, he can also customise NVDA settings as per his choice. NVDA makes inaccessible apps accessible using add-ons. It is useful for persons who find it difficult to use their Windows PC due to loss of vision, and those who want to switch from JAWS screen reader to NVDA.

Akshay shares that after being equipped with skills to operate a computer independently, he had two options – to look for a government job reserved for the disabled or be self-employed. “While my search for a government job in the disabled category is on, I did not want to waste my time and started to earn when I was just 20. I suffer from 75% Nystagmus – a condition I was born with which is responsible for limited or reduced vision; I am colour blind. There is no cure for this illness. I have to live with it.

"I find it difficult walking in the sun. Travelling by public transport alone is also difficult. However, I have not given up, and have accepted this challenging situation as a part of life. I am going to prove to the world that even visually impaired persons can excel in life if they are determined,” shares Akshay, a youth with a die-hard spirit. Happy that Kadamba offers free transport services across Goa to persons with disabilities, he avails the facility.

Akshay’s elder brother Aakash is five years older than him, married and doing a job. His father is a motorcycle pilot at Mapusa, while his mother is a homemaker. The family of four supports each other to face everyday challenges, but the smile on their faces never fades.

Akshay used to go to the night flea market at Arpora with his friends to sell handmade sandals. “I worked with them for two years, helping them in making and selling the footwear to international customers. We made leather shoes and sandals by hand, and of slightly bigger sizes to fit the foreigners as their feet are bigger than Indians. I learnt the nuance of making such leather footwear and now make them independently. My raw material comes from Mumbai by transport. I pay online. Things have become easy now with mobile and online orders and billings. I don’t have to travel to places to buy raw materials,” he explains.

Akshay invested some amount initially to buy the raw materials and the required tools, sharp items that he uses for shoe-making. Equipped with his tools and training, this budding entrepreneur expresses hope to expand his business gradually. Not wanting to take a loan for his start-up, Akshay feels confident that he can earn a sufficient amount by making footwear, and the same would then be further invested to grow the business.

“Instead of seeking surety from government departments to avail a loan facility, or to beg for subsidy, I want to rely on my ability and skills to grow. My family, especially my mother, helps me in my work. I make different models, using various colours in leather. A pair of leather footwear that I make by hand costs Rs 400-500. Sometimes a happy customer pays more, willingly,” discloses Akshay, who was invited to participate in the popular Kala Ghoda Festival in Mumbai, an offer he had to decline because he couldn't travel alone to Mumbai.

“I am concentrating on local business. At my rented shop at Panaji Kadamba bust stand, I sell readymade footwear. I also put up stalls in the exhibitions and fairs during zatras and feasts. From November 26 I would be at the Old Goa fair, which starts before the St Xavier's feast. At the fair, I do good business, though the customers that visit are mixed.

"I am content with what life is offering me. I have no complaints. But I also want to mention here that I want to promote my business and concentrate on my personalised footwear-making skill, rather than selling readymade footwear. I know very few can do this, and I should call myself lucky to have mastered this art. I am sure my family, friends and well-wishers would certainly back me on this,” concludes Akshay.

Hats off to this young talented Goan who is dreaming big – and his low vision is not a hurdle to his dreams.

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