Samanvi Bhograj started a manufacturing unit that makes 100 percent biodegradable and compostable tableware products using plant fibre.
Plastic has become an integral parts of our lives. It has seeped into every little shelf on the corner and has made our lives completely dependent on it. Right from the cradle to the grave most of the products in our daily usage come with plastic.
In this plastic-filled world, Samanvi Bhograj, a 31-year-old from Bengaluru, is showing an alternative in the form of cutlery made out of sugarcane bagasse.
The first thing that is physically visible to anyone on the streets of India is garbage. It’s not something that we are all proud of. What you can see also is that at least 90 percent of this garbage is disposable plastics, mainly polyethene covers, plates, cups spoons etc. Knowing that plastic does not degrade and the demand of disposables is ever increasing, it made me think of something that can replace the disposable plastics, says Samanvi.
Samanvi is a third-generation entrepreneur; her father and grandfather, started and ran a steel forging company back in 1963. Her natural instinct and interests were also in pursuing entrepreneurship, but at the same time Samanvi also wanted to create something that would add considerable value to the society and environment.
Earthware, founded in 2011, started off with corn-based products such as bin liners, cover for textile industry, and cutlery.
The huge demand for disposable tableware in the food industry has become the largest contributor to environmental pollution. Samanvi realised this and began to search for an alternative that could replace plastic. After extensive research she stumbled upon bagasse, a fibre obtained from sugarcane after extracting juice from it. Thus, Visfortec Pvt Ltd came into existence as a company that manufactures 100-percent biodegradable and compostable tableware products made from plant fibre.
Earthware is a brand solely owned by Visfortec, and has become the primary business front of the company, given the demand for disposable cutlery in the market.
These products are made of bagasse pulp,which is formed and pressed at high temperatures to give it bonding and strength. The raw material for designing the products is ideally an agricultural waste.
Earthware manufactures bagasse tableware such as plates, bowls, trays, and containers. The company is planning to come up with coffee cups and glasses too.
“The biggest challenge we initially faced was to convince people to move from plastic and to teach/bring awareness about the harmful effects of it. The next challenge was the pricing. Being a new product in the market and the low volumes of consumption- the cost compared to plastic is high which did not motivate people to move to these products. However, we have been able to bring down the prices considerably in the last one year due to increase in demand for these products,” says Samanvi.
The move to ban disposable plastics, which was adopted by a few states across the country, has further increased the willingness as well as awareness to move to more eco-friendly products.
Today, the company produces about 15 lakh pieces of cutlery every month and is, according to Samanvi, South India’s first and only manufacturing unit for products made from plant fibre. It caters to organisations, restaurants and takeaway shops that need packaging material on a regular basis. It sells anywhere between 8-10 tons per month and is looking to scale to 25 tons in the next six months.
Samanvi also works with women to produce packaging material like bags, bin liners and garment covers made of jute, paper and cloth. Her team visits villages in Karnataka and employs women who work from home. The Bengaluru team has 12 members.
Our company believes in women empowerment and we mostly work with women in manufacturing our products. We work with women in villages around Bengaluru, such as Tumkur, Nelamangala and Mysore, and we also work with women who are comfortable sending their products by finishing them at home.
“I try to promote empowerment of women as much as I can as I feel they are truly a backbone of their families and financial stability helps them shine more,” says Samanvi.
Visfortec also works with women in rural areas for stitching cloth, jute and paper bags that are consumed largely in the urban markets.
“The next 2-3 years hold the key to these products wherein we will be able to see a large market move away from plastic to sustainable alternatives.
“We are sitting on a ticking time bomb! We may be gone in a few years from now but what we use and consume in our life span lasts for generations to come. We must be more conscious about our lifestyles and consumption patterns to at least retain the environment at what it is today,” says Samanvi.
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