[100 Emerging Women Leaders] How Chaitsi Ahuja roped in environmentalist and film producer Pragya Kapoor for her sustainable startup

In this feature of 100 Emerging Women Leaders, we feature Chaitsi Ahuja, Founder of sustainable ecommerce brand Brown Living, and reveal the story of how environmentalist and film producer Pragya Kapoor came on board.
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Chaitsi Ahuja often spent her weekends doing beach cleanups or going on nature trails, but often felt like a hypocrite. She loved nature and green living, but as a marketing expert for a large Indian retail company, she had to create high-budget marketing campaigns to push low-priced processed foods and FMCG products that were created for mass consumption and were detrimental to the environment. 

“There seemed a disconnect. My value system didn’t agree with me. I started disagreeing a lot with people at work and realised that this wasn’t the job for me. I hated creating pieces of communications that were misleading and harmful. That’s when I decided to take the plunge and build something truly good for the environment,” Chaitsi recalls. 

In November 2019, Chaitsi started the sustainable ecommerce platform Brown Living. The ecommerce marketplace aggregator curates products that are sustainable, natural, upcycled, handmade, recycled, thrifted, earth-friendly, and are an alternative to plastics. 

By August 2020, Brown Living had already had over 2.5 lakh visitors. 

The process starts with vendor selection and onboarding; the team requests each seller to send them product samples.

“We personally test them, evaluate their packaging (for product and shipping), verify their licences and certifications, and approve for listing. Products that don’t stand true to our framework are dropped and the others are listed,” Chaitsi says. 

The products are listed on the website by the vendor through the backend system. Sellers manage inventory and order fulfilment from their end via the backend panel. Customer payments are routed via Razorpay/Paytm. 

“We follow a drop-ship model. Order fulfilment is directly done by the seller through the backend panel. Orders are picked up directly from sellers by our shipping partners and delivered to customers. The backend panel enables us to have a completely automated fulfilment process. After deducting our commission and taxes, we remit the rest of the amount to the seller (on a monthly/weekly basis),” she explains. 

Brown Living serves as a platform for artists, craftsmen, artisans, and small businesses that make sustainable products. For consumers, the startup provides easy access to sustainable products. 

“We are a team of Earth advocates, aiming to promote a sustainable way of living. Through our consciously curated list of highly-vetted makers and their products, we aim to build a community that promotes a waste-free and plastic-free lifestyle,” Chaitsi says. 

This passion and drive got Pragya Kapoor, environmentalist and film producer, to look closely at Brown Living. She had come across the website and its social media pages while looking for sustainable products. 

“When I looked online for different products, I realised it wasn’t that easy. You realise more about consumption patterns when you try to shift to an alternative and a more sustainable lifestyle. This was something that I was very keen and particular about,” says Pragya, the producer of Kedarnath

The duo connected on social media and realised they shared a mutual passion for sustainability. In June this year, Pragya came on board as a partner and investor with Brown Living. 

“The only way to move forward is to change our lifestyle and be advocates of sustainability. Together, with this unified vision, we want to provide access and bridge the gap between the conscious consumer and responsible small businesses, to make sustainable living mainstream in India,” adds Pragya 


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Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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