These IIT-Delhi alumni want their online marketplace to create mass appeal for ethical and earth friendly products
Saving the earth may be the mantra these days, but Shubham Bansal and Divish Gupta, engineering graduates from IIT Delhi, have been socially conscious for long. Even while at college, they were keen to do right to the planet. Now, after graduating in electrical engineering and engineering physics between 2014 and 2015, the duo has started an earth-friendly entrepreneurial venture.
Founded in January this year in Puducherry, Leap Club is an online marketplace for products that are environmentally friendly and ethically produced. The products on offer at present include toxin-free skincare products, pesticide and preservative-free foods (including pulses, chocolates, coffee, ghee, and more), and reusable feminine hygiene products.
“From our college days, we have engaged in various social development projects,” Shubham says.
Prior to starting Leap Club, Shubham worked with a German energy company to understand electricity consumption pattern among consumers and how machine learning could nudge them towards better energy efficient behaviour.
His co-founder, Divish, worked with Digital Green, an organisation that seeks to uplift the economic status of farmers with small land holdings by leveraging technology.
Leap Club team: Front (from left) Shubam Bansal (co-founder), Harishini and Sakthi. Behind (from left) Shankar and Divish Gupta (co-founder)
Shubham and Divish, who partner with units based at Auroville in Puducherry, brainstormed many ideas before they zeroed in on creating an online platform for ecologically-friendly and ethically-produced products.
“We believe that people do not understand the environmental footprint of the products they are consuming,” Shubham says.
Starting the online marketplace by partnering with units from Auroville was a huge plus point as the multi-cultural township has for long been receptive to eco-friendly ideas and has taken the lead in producing such products.
With Leap Club, the founders aim to take these products to the outside world, hoping that they will do their bit for the earth as well.
The founders say they worked with multiple Auroville-based organisations to build a “personal environment tracker” to measure many consumption patterns, including things like “how much single plastic was generated or quantum of organic food that was consumed”. This way, the founders of Leap Club could test their ideas.
From niche to mass
For close to a year now, the founding duo has been fine-tuning its platform. Their focus is to create an environment of mass appeal for their products, currently viewed as a “niche category”. “We want to nudge consumer behaviour towards these products,” Shubham says.
This bootstrapped venture, which has also got support from Social Alpha, a not-for-profit platform that funds and support entrepreneurial social enterprises, has got over 100 products on its platform. These range from food products to personal hygiene items.
“We want to make it easy for people to try these products as these are not expensive and probably make it easier for them to make that switch,” Shubham says.
Focus on transparency
The founders’ core focus is to ensure complete transparency in their transactions, and involves stringent checks on products available on their platform. Till now, it has been easy for them to source products as most brands are from Auroville. However, they aim to maintain the same strict standards as they expand their product portfolio.
“We have got around six to seven brands on our platform and are in the process of on-boarding more,” Shubham says.
A one-stop shop
The founders believe their differentiation would be to create a one-stop-shop for environmentally sensitive products; they aim to leverage technology to better understand user behaviour.
“We plan to bring multiple brands focused on this segment on to a single platform. With a single click, consumers can know the entire history or background of the product,” Shubham says.
Many social enterprises are challenged by lower adoption of technology. The founders aim to use technology to create more personalised messaging around the products and work the trust factor among consumers.
Shubham adds that the startup aims to “build a better connect between the producer of these products and the consumer”.
As part of their future plans, Leap Club plans to undertake deep pilot projects with the brands for better consumer traction. Towards this, the startup is working on processes and support infrastructure to extend the reach of brands.
Leap Club is also looking at partnering with a few retail stores where their products can be placed.
“We need to generate enough value for these brands,” Shubham says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)