Often the cotton socks we wear all day, leave our feet in painful blisters. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts who follow rigorous training regimes find their feet with black toes and calluses at the end of the day. As of now, cotton is the most favoured material for socks and sports apparels despite its drawbacks, mainly because there is no other viable alternative.
However, IIT-Roorkee graduates Prateek Sharma and Siddharth Jain have incorporated an unexpected material in socks – bamboo. Surprised? The two expert engineers have deployed some cutting-edge design to manufacture bamboo socks which are softer, stronger and more durable than cotton or linen socks. Their organisation, Heelium, are also producing plush bath and hand towels woven from bamboo fibres.
Bamboo in socks?
Of late, bamboo is rapidly catching up in the organic domain as an eco-friendly raw material, particularly for construction purposes or for smaller household items. The sturdiness, durability and antimicrobial properties of bamboo make it a far better alternative than plastic, wood or metal. But to introduce bamboo in the textile sector is a huge breakthrough, which the duo have accomplished successfully. Talking to Efforts For Good, Heelium co-founder Prateek explained how they achieved this impossible while ensuring a global quality standard for all their products.
“I have pursued my Masters in Sports engineering from Sheffield, UK and also worked with global sports brands like Adidas. On top of it, I already had a background in materials engineering from IIT. I knew about athletic apparels, I knew about bamboo – I brought the two together,” shares Prateek. He and Siddharth have been friends since their graduation days. Their love for sports brought them together. A few years later, when Prateek was toying with the idea of using bamboo fibre in sports clothes, he roped in Siddharth as his partner. Together, they launched Heelium in September 2017 as a pilot project. After a few trial runs and series of surveys among the public, they marketed the bamboo socks around February 2018, followed by the towels a few months later.
Why are bamboo socks better?
The readers must be wondering by now why one should go for bamboo socks. Prateek answers, “Bamboo has natural thermoregulatory properties which keep your feet warm in winters and cooler in summers. The material is way better than cotton in terms of breathability, comfort and lesser friction – which are absolute necessities for athletic socks. The antibacterial nature of bamboo fibre is an added advantage.”
Heelium socks are made from young bamboo shoots from which thin filaments of fibre are segregated, processed and threaded. The socks and towels are knitted or woven from these threads. “We have also created soft fabrics from the fibre filaments which we are using for our t-shirts and other clothes. They will be launched very soon in the market,” Prateek informs.
“Customers are our contributors”
The founders have a unique way of curating their unconventional products. When the talented creators conceptualise any design, they take the pilot product to a set of customers. Based on their feedback, the product design is finalised. “This process is also helping in our marketing through word of mouth,” Prateek shares.
Though initially Heelium was launched exclusively for sportspersons, the duo soon found commoners of all ages loving their products. To diversify their consumer base, they customised the product designs according to everyone’s needs.
Heelium in South Korea
Heelium sources their bamboo mostly from Tirupur and other bamboo-rich zones of South India, though they operate with a towel-manufacturing unit in Ludhiana, Punjab as well. The bamboo innovations of this Pune-based start-up have gained quite some international attention, and currently, they are operating an R&D unit in South Korea as well.
The unique idea has received awards and recognitions aplenty from all over India. The company has also received seed funding and technical support from premier institutions like IIT-Bombay, IIM-Ahmedabad and CIIE (Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship). “We are also coordinating with the Department of Science and Technology, Central Government for a special type of athletic shoes,” reveals Prateek. The duo hopes more people can switch to using bamboo as a cloth material and realise its advantages.
For more information on Heelium bamboo socks and towels, visit their website http://heelium.in/