Keen to #UnplasticIndia, this Bengaluru-based startup wants you to Re-bag your shopping
With India drowning in a sea of plastic, how does one #UnplasticIndia? Siddharth Bajoria is working towards this ambitious mission with his startup Re-bag, a Bengaluru-based eco-friendly bag manufacturing company.
Founded in 2017, the sustainability-focused startup manufactures 100 percent cotton cloth bags, which are durable and can help tackle the single-use plastic problem.
Siddharth, 27, was working at JP Morgan & Chase when work monotony set in. Keen to take a break and do something different, he quit his job in March 2017. Around that time, the plastic ban in Karnataka had taken centre stage, and there were multiple conversations on how the state had imposed the ban without providing an alternative solution.
“Intrigued, I decided to research the market and quickly realised that different solutions and options were available. I travelled to multiple states to look into sourcing of fabrics, and manufacturers who could work with me on job work basis. I sourced some fabrics and made a few thousand bags to test the product. And they sold,” Siddharth says.
That led to the birth of Re-bag in August 2017. Siddharth teamed up with his brother, Rishav Bajoria, for the bootstrapped venture, and the duo soon set up a factory in an industrial area in Bengaluru.
Getting the Re-bag story started
“We began with a small setup, which has grown to two units already. The manufacturing facility is similar to a T-shirt or any apparel manufacturing setup. I consulted a few friends, who have been in garment manufacturing, for procurement of machines. The major sections in our factory are for printing and stitching,” Siddharth says.
The biggest challenge was that this was “a completely new industry” for Siddharth, who had “zero knowledge of fabrics and allied processes in making bags”. He started by trading bags, and - after being in the industry for six months – knew enough to set up his own manufacturing unit.
“I even took a few inputs from my aunt, who runs a boutique,” Siddharth says.
He soon realised that getting leads and getting people to switch to a product, which is 10-15 times costlier than the plastic counterpart, were major challenges.
“Competitors started using synthetic material to sell more at cheaper price points. However, we decided to stick to 100 percent cotton, which is organic and biodegradable,” he says.
Dealing with the challenges
The asset costs are not huge, Siddharth says. The brothers set up the infrastructure with Rs 30 lakh; it took about 10 months to get the manufacturing unit in place.
The bigger challenge is working capital as local clients work on a 30-45 day credit system.
“Even now, delays in payments cause a direct impact on production cycles and, thus, the turnover. I am still learning on the journey and trying to get things as organised as possible,” Siddharth says.
Sourcing the raw material is an important part of the business, and Siddharth travelled to different states for this. “We currently source from four states. I currently have six vendors who supply regularly. Regular supply of material is a problem due to high demand and so we need to plan our month-on-month purchases, Siddharth says.
The demand for green packaging
According to a Coherent Marketing Insights report, the global biodegradable packaging market, which was valued at $3.92 billion last year, will touch $21 billion by 2025. The growing need for biodegradable packaging and products has led many companies, including True Green, Earthware Products, Ecoware, Earthsoul, and Chuk Biodegradeable, to explore this space.
Having an end-to-end manufacturing setup helped Re-bag keep costs low. Siddharth says they have worked with several industries, ranging from retail, fashion, food and beverages, hotels, events, and weddings.
The team, however, declined to disclose how many bags they have sold so far.
"This helps us understand the client’s exact requirement and provide solutions accordingly,” he says.
Re-bag claims to currently manufacture about three to four lakh bags a month. It makes its revenue from the sale of the bags to their B2B clients. A profit margin is added on top of the manufacturing costs.
While the team did not share revenue details, they said their key clients are top retail chains, duty free stores, luxury hotels, fashion boutiques, and F&B outlets, among others. The pricing of the bags depends on designs, printing, and size of the bags. Every client has a different requirement, which leads to a unique price.
“However, we work on the lowest of margins with clients who have recurring requirements. Our bags range from Rs 6 to Rs 30 (based on different sizes, designs, and fabric quality). The retail tote bags cost between Rs 16 to Rs 20 whereas the canvas printed bags cost about Rs 30 to Rs 80,” Siddharth says.
Aiming for a plastic-free India
He says Re-bag bags require a small investment (between Rs 10-Rs 25), but consumers can use them at least 10-15 times. This cycle reduces the complete dependency on single-use plastic.
“We have planned our venture in such a way that it creates environmental as well as social impact. When you buy a Re-bag, it not only helps you be eco-friendly; you are also helping an underprivileged family earn their livelihood,” Siddharth says.
The team is also looking to start an ecommerce platform to sell quirky utility products made of the same fabric.
“We have also started working on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of #unplasticindia by 2022. We try to keep costs as minimum as possible but this product has a GST percent of 12 percent, which makes it a little more expensive for a lot of people. If our government wants to curb the use of plastic, it’s very important to work on the smaller tax slab for products like this, which creates little to more impact," Siddharth says.
Re-bag has also been getting export inquiries and “that is a promising direction we will be moving to in the future”, Siddharth says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)