Toyi Swuro — a cobbler from Phek Town in Nagaland, is often quizzed as to why he never chose a government job despite completing his graduation.

He replies almost instantly each time, “I wanted to be independent, self-reliant and contribute to my community.”

The 29-year-old’s shoe gallery, which he has curated and perfected over the years, is a testament to this.

‘Craft Gallery’ houses leather products — such as shoes, purses, belts, upholstery and more — and even produces customised designs based on the customers’ demand.

In addition to this, Craft Gallery is a stop for anyone who is looking to have their shoes repaired, and most of these are done for free by Toyi.

Many are amazed at the path Toyi has chosen for himself.

Belonging to the Chakhesang Naga tribe, Toyi was an ambitious student and graduated from the Phek Government College with a bachelor’s in arts.

It was during this time that the Nagaland resident realised how people look down upon menial labour in the Northeast.

“Professions like cobblers and barbers are frowned upon, and there is no dignity of labour when it comes to these jobs. This is why I chose to take up work as a cobbler to set an example,” he says.

In addition to this, having grown up in a humble background, Toyi says he was fuelled with a zeal to help other youth like himself.

And so he started repairing torn shoes in his bedroom. Soon word spread. People began flocking to his place, and such were the numbers that he decided it was time to start a shop.

Craft Gallery, which started in 2018 with an investment of Rs 3,000 is now tasting success. He shares that he repairs close to 30 shoe pairs a day earning “Rs 2 lakh a year”.

In 2019, Toyi won the first Northeast Unsung Heroes Red Carpet Social Award under the category of entrepreneurship. He was also honoured by Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari.

“Everyone is looking for white-collar jobs,” he says adding that he looks forward to opening his own company in the next 10 years and employing hundreds of youth.