[YS Lounge] Making the most of elephant poop- Haathi Chaap
One usually lands upon best of the stories when not looking for them. In Dharamasala, I was talking to a couple who were about to startup their business in fair trade for which they were moving to the US. The company is called Old Yak Bazaar and the kind of things they’re selling includes paper made from elephant poop! I was intrigued upon hearing this and while Old Yak Bazaar is a topic for another story, I decided to source more information about these paper makers. Vijendra Shekhawat and Mahima Mehra turn out to be the people behind this paper.
Founded in 2003, the duo have grown in popularity because of their unusual proposition and it is hard to catch hold of them but their story is there to be told. While in Jaipur at a shrine, Mahima nudged Vijendra warning him about the huge lump of elephant poop in front of him. He evaded the poop but it also made him stop in his step. Leaving aside the stink, the texture and the way the poop looked, piqued the interest of Vijendra. He had always been into experimenting with various kinds of materials to make paper and this seemed like another experiment that was demanding action.
They collected some poop and after a lot of fine tuning, came into existence- The Haathi Chaap brand of paper. How is it made?
The method used for making elephant dung paper is similar to other varieties of handmade paper. There are changes owing to the fibrous nature of the raw material. “Making sure that the paper is not harmful for the papermaker as well as the user was our biggest challenge, so disinfectants are used to make the paper as bacteria free as possible,” say the duo.
Collecting the poop
For the first four years, the product was exported to Germany and sales in India began in 2007. The company is based in Jaipur and over the last 6 years, Haathi Chaap has increased its reach to close to 50 stores and a couple of online stores as well. Most of the revenue comes by exporting and as of the last financial year, the company was clocking INR 35 lakhs in revenues.
Potential and other such businesses
India is full of ingenuity and encouraging such businesses by providing growth support makes a lot of business sense. Be it these two boys with Maku Textile or the Evomo vehicle, there are lots of people in various parts of the country working on some delightful things.
If you’re looking for more stories creating social impact, check out Social Story.