Neerja Lakhani and Varun Pratap Yadav, Founder, Neerg
‘Green clothing’ is quite a movement now and joining in the league are Neerja Lakhani and Varun Pratap Yadav, graduates of Nift and M-IIT, who were resolute about striking out on their own and finally saw their dreams come true with ‘Neerg’. The company, which was established in 2008 is still a sapling but has already made a marked difference in the organic textile industry. Neerg, the first fashion brand in India to exclusively deal in eco-friendly (organic cotton) and sustainable clothing, marks a journey back to nature, back to ‘green’ and thus N-E-E-R-G. Each collection is inspired by the philosophy of green clothing as natural evolution.
The company emphasises on farming and processing of farm products in ways that are in sync with nature and help minimise air, soil and water pollution. Even the raw materials come from plant that have not been genetically modified or treated with synthetic or chemical pesticides. Moreover, while the company ensures that the dyeing and finishing of fabrics is carried out using non-toxic substances, it also makes certain that garment manufacturing follows fair-trade practices and disallows child labour.
The credibility of the company and the quality of its products can be gauged from the fact that its production channel is GOTS certified, providing assurance of its eco-friendly and ethical standards. This apart, the company’s operation has proved beneficial not only to the environment, farmers and workers, but also to Neerg customers since the company uses only 100% cotton, which is naturally disease-free, less irritating to the skin than man-made fibres and resistant to fungal infestations, moulds and mildews.
“What differentiates our business from the other operations is our belief in going natural. It is not essential for a good design to be backed by conventional fabrics, hazardous dyeing or printing techniques. We can be environment conscious and still maintain the same aesthetic value or perhaps add to it because eco-friendly fabrics have their own unique style and palette,” explains Neerja.
Varun, on the other hand, believes that credit for the actual product must go to the working class who put in laborious hours and still fail to earn enough to sustain them. “We therefore vouch for and actualise on a business model that ensures an equitable sharing of profits and fair trade practices,” he said.
When asked how they plan to scale up their business, the duo said they are working towards creating awareness about organic clothing all over the world and will fulfil the demands that upsurge thereafter.
Wonder why they chose to become entrepreneurs? “We craved for the satisfaction that comes by working for yourself and seeing how the results affect not only us as individuals but also people across the world. The environment is on its way to destruction and it’s because we are polluting it. However, very few people have actually come forward to ameliorate the conditions. It was then that we decided to take the initiative and took a step towards eco-fashion,” said Neerja.
One of the biggest challenges the company faced during its initial phase was to find a channel to procure raw materials and use manufacturing processes that are entirely eco-friendly. The task was mammoth and it took Neerja and Varun more time to establish the brand than they had expected. In fact, even the seed capital for starting the company came from their personal savings. But despite the hard times, Neerja and Varun, who are personally very close and have found strength in each other, were persistent in their endeavour and always found inspiration to move on with the venture. Now, they plan to market Neerg for seizing the organic women’s wear market by 2010 and offer its franchise to interested parties around the world.
To the aspiring entrepreneurs Neerja advises on staying focussed and achieving the smaller goals first. Varun, on the other hand, says, “If you think you can do it, you are right and if you think you cannot do it, you are still right! All entrepreneurs fall in the former category.”