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Employment beyond IT

Ever wondered what happens when you don’t want to be in technology any more – and how you can harness the vision afforded to you as an IT professional in a completely different way? That was the thought of business development professional Gonçalo Henriques, who moved from logistics in DHL to his new business, Undandy, which sells shoes – but through an internet engine that allows the customers to design their own.

“I always wanted to start my own company,” he explained. “I was in logistics for a long time which gave me knowledge of industry. I was working with car manufacturers a lot and I was visiting a shoe business, and I thought: why can’t we make a shoe like we make a car?” His idea was that in the same way new car buyers select elements of their cars online, they could choose the cut of a shoe, the colour (or colours, depending on how many panels their shoes or boots have) and of course size, creating – potentially – some unique footwear.

He felt that it had been hard to find the perfect shoe at the perfect price, so he approached his partner Rafic Daud and they set up together. The technology is fuelled by a database containing shoe sizes, shoe shapes (loafers, Oxfords, brogues, Chelsea Boots and so on) and a javascript customiser that adds the texture as well as the shape to the image of the shoe in front of the end-customer. The shoe is divided into different parts and each can be changed. “The big difference is that we apply the correct texture to the 3D image of the shoe, so it’s realistic,” said Henriques.

The system then sends the pattern to the manufacturing partner, which Undandy regards as part of the same company, to be made and shipped within two weeks. The database is flexible enough to take more variations and over time it will do so; one popular request is for men wanting different shoe widths. Individual requests are considered but occasionally they are too individual to be met. One customer recently wanted elements moved by several millimetres, which would have compromised the integrity of the shoe, for example. “John Lobb [major bespoke bootmaker in London] would not have done that,” Henriques believed. “We already offer 156 billion combinations.”

There will, however, be more materials and designs available as they become feasible. It will remain a men’s shoe brand as long as current plans are in place, and may well expand into other garments if it continues to succeed.