Aruna and Prashant, Co Founders, Bamboo House India

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Bamboo for Green Livelihoods ...

Answer a question for me…What is the fastest growing plant on Earth? The answer is… the Bamboo and if you knew that, I would be surprised, mainly because I did not know the answer till now and partly because it is a little known fact that the Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on Earth; it has been clocked surging skyward as fast as 121 cm (47.6 inches) in a 24-hour period, and can also reach maximal growth rate exceeding one meter (39 inches) per hour for short periods of time and you know “the needle of Alaxender Graham bell’s first phonograph was made of bamboo” and ”Thomas Alva Edison’s first light bulb used a filament made of carbonized bamboo, this light bulb still burns today in Smithsonian Museum in Washington,

Which is very good news indeed, for Aruna and Prashant who have banked on the versatile yet humble Bamboo; and its incredible abilities. Not only can you eat it, you can drink out of it, make houses with it and also the furniture and that’s just a few of the things you can do with Bamboo. In 2008 the duo recognized it potential and established "Bamboo House India" with the focus on the many uses of this fast growing plant.

Bamboo House India" is a social enterprise with an aim of providing sustainable livelihood opportunities to rural and tribal artisans in the bamboo sector through business models designed to work at base of the economic pyramid and promote bamboo as an eco friendly substitute to wood, steel, iron & plastic.

Bamboo applications range from bamboo pens to bamboo t-shirts to bamboo laptops to bamboo speakers to bamboo soap to bamboo sanitary napkins to bamboo bullet proof jackets to bamboo perfume to bamboo shirts to watch to bamboo camera to housing to bamboo furniture to bamboo yarn to bamboo oil etc, there are more than 1500 documented and 5000 undocumented uses of bamboo.

The very purpose of the enterprise is to create long term, sustainable, non -migratory business model for the rural and tribal artisans in the bamboo sector by using locally available green raw material i.e. bamboo. Bamboo & its products have always suffered from poor market linkages and regulatory constraints affecting the raw material despite enormous market size. If exploited properly, bamboo can help more than 5 million of our population cross the poverty line. Also, country's natural forests are under threat as demand for timber is expected to touch 153 million cubic meters by 2020 and country's timber import bill is boiling at Rs. 4000 crores (2005-06). Today, customers are shopping for eco friendly products & Bamboo can come handy to fulfill socio, economic and environmental needs of the country.

Bamboo House India is working on setting up chain of exclusive bamboo showrooms across the country and commercialse IIT-Delhi’s bamboo bow beam technology for rural housing. Indian rural housing shortage stands at staggering 6.7 million dwelling units and need of the hour is cost effective and efficient solution for this and Bamboo House India in partnership with IIT-D is working towards addressing this issue.

The venture sounds commendable but how exactly does someone make money from bamboo? After all it’s not as expensive as wood or nearly as profitable as a conventional cash crop like tobacco.

The Duo answers Yourstory’s queries saying;

We at Bamboo House India are investing to create triple bottom line returns.

Financial: Indian Market potential of Bamboo based products is estimated to be Rs.26, 000/- Cores by the year 2015. Bamboo Furniture market is estimated at 3625 crores and Bamboo Housing market stands at 1100 Crores.

Social: If tapped properly can help more than 5 million of our population cross the poverty line and Bamboo

Environmental: Bamboo minimizes CO2 gases and generates up to 35% more oxygen then equivalent stand of trees

What makes the venture unique and an economically feasible reality is that nobody in the country till date has tried to get the entire bamboo industry under one roof. It is very difficult for commercial entrepreneurs to venture into bamboo, only social entrepreneurs can try this line that too with in depth grass root domain expertise, starting from tissue culture plant material to Indian Forest Act to working in high insurgency area to understanding various bamboo species and understanding tribal mindset all goes into making a business model. Thus they have a First mover advantage added to the complex domain expertise to add to their merits.

Bamboo House India have been able to make a major impact through our initiative and recognised for their efforts:

  1. 1) Convinced NMBA - CII - APTDC - IIT (D) -AP Forest Dept for a need of having a permanent platform to promote bamboo based products to provide round the year employment opportunities to rural and tribal artisans to arrest migration. Taking cue of suggestions got funded an exclusive bamboo showroom in Hyderabad which is the first of its kind in the country under a Bamboo Housing Structure designed by Indian Institute of Technology - Delhi.
  2. Participated in Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) & India Development Fund (IDF Research) Round Table Conference held at Hyderabad on "Industrialization of Bamboo Industry in India" and campaigned and convinced the panel for a need for efficient and effective market linkages strategy for growth of Bamboo Industry.
  3. Andhra Pradesh Forest Department (APFD) under its World Bank project has entrusted the responsibility of Training their Forest Communities in Bamboo Crafts to "Bamboo House India". Training at 2 locations has been completed third location will commence shortly.
  4. IIT –D - CII - APTDC under Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) project is setting up Bamboo Common Facilities Center at "Bamboo House India” premises” in Hyderabad.
  5. Students of Indian School of Business (ISB) - Hyderabad have presented the Business Model of "Bamboo House India" as case study to Cornell University for competition.
  6. Proposal sent to NMBA for funding for setting up pole based housing structure plant in Hyderabad in partnership with NMBA – IIT (D) – CII – APTDC – APFD & NIRD.
  7. IIT (D) is partnering with Bamboo House India in commercializing its innovative bow beam technology for rural housing structures, project will commence in a quarter.
  8. Proposal being sent to NMBA & APFD for support for setting up Hand woven Mat Training & production unit in Andhra Pradesh.
  9. Nominated at TATA NEN HOTTEST START UP AWARDS Competition 2008.
  10. ECONOMIC TIMES covered our story on – 03 / 02 / 09.
  11. Made it to final round in the ongoing Economic Time Power of Ideas Contest.
  12. “Outlook Money” magazine has covered our story 17th June 2009 issue.
  13. Networking with FORD FOUNDATION for support.
  14. Networking with UNDP for support.
  15. Applied for LRAMP support –waiting for technical documents from IIT (D) to submit the final bplan.
  16. Did pilot market research for our idea and received overwhelming response from around 90 investors willing to take up franchisee.
  17. Designed and developed management, production and marketing practices for rural and tribal communities with whom we are working.
  18. Developed market oriented products for the communities a shift from their age old basketry making activities.
  19. Trying to bring entire bamboo industry under one roof through chain of bamboo showrooms for visibility of bamboo based products.
  20. Developed product catalogues and database of several artisans which never existed making it easy for them to market their products.
  21. Taking up market based livelihood programmes in Andhra Pradesh by targeting women members of the communities.
  22. Covered by THE WEEK MAGAZINE – 23rd August 2009
  23. Providing sufficient work to communities to ensure their migration to other avenues is restricted.
  24. Convinced industry and government the need for a dedicated market based approach for growth of bamboo industry, today we have the support of government and industry, missions , organizations working in the bamboo sector for our unique market based approach to solve socio economic and environmental problems of the country through bamboo.
  25. UTV has covered our story for their programme “Cracking Careers” – 28th July
  26. CNBC has covered our initiative for their programme “Young Turks” – 15th august
  27. Telugu Newspaper “EENADU” has covered our initiative – 3rd February 2009
  28. Telugu TV Channel “Vanitha TV” ran a story on our initiative.
  29. Featured by “Outllook Business” among 50 social entrepreneurs of the country

Partnerships & Tie –Ups

Bamboo House India is supported in its initiative by

  • National Mission on Bamboo Application (NMBA)
  • Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)
  • Indian Institute of Technology (IIT – Delhi)
  • Andhra Pradesh Forest Department (APFD)
  • Tripura Bamboo Mission (TBM)
  • Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services ( IL & FS)
  • Andhra Pradesh Technology Promotion & Development Centre (APTDC)

The complexity, risk, challenges and uncertainty involved in the complex bamboo scenario in the country imparts an adrenaline rush of motivation to the duo to continue the journey which they have no plans of giving up. By 2010 they plan to set up at least 3-5 exclusive bamboo showrooms across the country under a PPP model which as such has never been tried in the country. They will also get government branding for the same and ensure round the year employment opportunities to the rural/tribal population of the country, promote green products and give a boost to the bamboo industry in the country.

They believe that Having an Idea, Believing in that idea coupled with the ability to execute that idea with a pinch of Clarity + Focus + Patience + Long term vision with a dash of Risk taking ability and tenacity spells the perfect recipe for success like a pot of freshly cooked Bamboo shoot curry. The Duo recommends the recipe to all readers at Yourstory and we wish “Bon Appetit” to Aruna and Prashant hoping they taste success with "Bamboo House India".