Shekhar belongs to a family whose primary source of income is farming. Having personally witnessed the troubles of organic farmers, he gave a lot of thought to how best to address their issues.
His interest in growing potted plants made him want to improve the experience of gardening, and soon he had moved on to the idea of making a business out of it, leading to the birth of TrustBasket in February 2015.
It is a known fact that one of the most challenging aspects of waste disposal is getting people to adapt to the concept of segregation. Most of the garbage from cities ends up in landfills. This was why, in keeping with his vision of sustainable and affordable gardening, Shekhar came up with the idea of TrustBin, a product of parent company TrustBasket.
“We believed in composting as the effective and practical solution. Through this product, we are trying to solve a major challenge in our cities,” says Shekhar (31), a graduate in electronics and communication engineering. In the past, he has worked with Concentrix, Tech Mahindra, and EMC Corporation.
He further added that when people compost their food waste, they automatically separate dry waste from it which automatically solves the segregation issue.
Bengaluru-based TrustBin allows users to convert food waste into organic manure and in turn use it for growing plants. The liquid manure, a TrustBin by-product, can also be used as an effective cleaning agent for bathrooms.
Existing traditional composting methods are slow and malodour is a major drawback. Traditional methods are not very convenient for flats and small houses. While looking for alternate methods, we came across an interesting process widely followed in Australia, the US, Canada, etc. This is a biotechnology invention from Japan, and the same is brought to our market in the form of TrustBin,” says Shekhar.
The startup’s other product is the Grow Kit, which provides all the materials required for growing organic vegetables at home.
Going through multiple routes
The startup is exploring the idea of TrustBin manure being used for organic farming, and is analysing the feasibility of collaborating with farmers who practise organic farming to supply the manure (produced in houses).
The prototype stage will see customers connecting with farmers interested in using 100 percent organic domestically produced manure. Shekhar is also of the view that transportation costs will become more affordable with a bigger network of people using the Bin.
Having multiple business models always help to scale up towards gaining incremental growth and Shekhar wants to play safe. The startup also sells over 300 varieties of seeds.
TrustBasket’s current month-on-month revenue growth is 30 percent, with the majority of it being driven by the e-commerce model. Shekhar says, “Going forward, our primary focus is to build a brand and sell via stores as well. Gardening products are always best sold by leveraging the convenience of online platforms with the in-store experience possible at physical stores.”
They are planning to start kiosks/retail stores at various organic shops and shopping malls. With this vision, the startup is looking forward to grow sales tenfold by the end of 2017.
A well-planned capital budget determines the scalability of a startup during the initial phase, so it is no wonder that Shekhar prefers to rely on social media and word of mouth for TrustBin’s marketing. The team comprises 15 full-time employees and five freelancers.
Others in the space
Betting big on gardening as a hobby, a few startups have sprouted in the last few years. Greenopia is a smart gardening kit that consists of one or multiple smart pots and a mobile application that helps a user monitor and take care of their plants remotely.
Springfinity.com is an online aggregator of plants, gardening accessories and services, organic produce, and green consumer products. Ugaoo offers a broad range of gardening and agriculture supplies such as kitchen garden seeds, commercial hybrid seeds, garden tools, insecticides, and a wide range of multilingual books on various topics.
According to a study by ASSOCHAM and TechSci Research, India’s organic food market is growing at a rate of 25–30 per cent and will touch $1.36 billion by 2020.