This Kolkata-based eco-friendly startup is making the Earth greener
In Kolkata, two entrepreneurs — claiming to be from a “clan of Earth lovers” — Priyanka Mandal and Broteen Biswas are tackling the climate change issue creatively by making sustainable backpacks, wallets, and pouches from water-resistant cotton canvas through their eco-friendly startup Clan Earth.
The only plastic involved is in the packaging that their raw materials are delivered in and the entrepreneurs make sure to recycle them.
Priyanka says the duo are not in business only for money and wanted to incorporate elements that will continue to excite them five years down the line. This led them to explore more areas to become sustainable and decided to plant five trees against the sale of every product.
“Tree planting is not only a need of the hour as a solution to climate change but also to protect the wildlife,” she adds.
However, as planting scores of trees and ensuring they survive was difficult in a city like Kolkata, Clan Earth partnered with Eden Reforestation Projects, one of the oldest non-profit organisations focussed on rebuilding deforested areas across the world.
At the end of every quarter, Clan Earth dedicates a part of their revenue to plant trees based on their sales record. Eden Reforestation works with local people in about 67 countries, thus ensuring the plantation work is not invasive to the local environment.
With the sale of over 300 bags, the startup has planted more than 1,500 trees so far.
“All products and processes are sustainable. I don’t believe you can have something based on petroleum and then have a CSR wing that does sustainability — not as a new company at least,” says Priyanka, who started transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle in 2018.
Rhino Duffel, Koala Backpack, and more
Priyanka, who is also the sole product designer, says the bags are made from a “contemporary and youthful perspective with small, functional pockets”.
Notably, they are named after animals that are either extinct or at the risk of being endangered like Koala Backpack, Rhino Duffel, and Pangolin Backpack (which is a bestseller).
“We try to match the size and look of the animal in our design. For example, Pangolin backpacks are rolled at the end because Pangolins — the most trafficked non-human mammal — roll up into a ball when they are scared. We also have wallets named after Kiwi bird,” Priyanka explains.
Clan Earth includes a letter to each customer, which informs that of the five trees being planted for their purchase, brief information about wildlife the product is named after, and why its survival is important, and a picture of the artisan who worked on the bag on the other side.
“What I am doing with this is letting them know we are planting five trees, raising awareness on the plight of this animal, and the fact that an artisan in Kolkata made this product. And in most feedback, customers have shared how they love knowing all this,” she adds.
With items priced between Rs 100 and Rs 4,000, Clan Earth also sells lifestyle products like bamboo toothbrushes and coconut shell candles on its website, and through ecommerce platform Amazon.
Some other startups in this space include EcoRight and Beej that are encouraging consumers to switch to an eco-conscious lifestyle.
Priyanka met Broteen when she was teaching skills like sewing, handicrafts, and accounting to people in the slum areas of Kolkata to help them financially. She also helped set up exhibitions to sell their jewellery.
Self-proclaimed nature lovers, they noted that most bags in India are made of polyester or leather, which the entrepreneur labels as a “cruel and chemically-laden industry.”
The duo realised starting a sustainable business would also allow them to help the financially backward families.
As first-time entrepreneurs, the duo faced many challenges from sourcing the right raw materials from across India. “We also had to spend a lot of time finding a masterji (who is an artisan) to guide the workers and launched commercially in January 2020 but the COVID-19 outbreak made everything go haywire,” she says.
Incubated at WE HUB, the brand’s focus on building a community on social media proved to be successful where the products were initially sold.
The entrepreneurs hope to experiment with innovative sustainable fabrics depending on their budget and introduce a new range of products in the market.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta