With Ancient Living, this Hyderabad entrepreneur is making eco-friendly products and reviving traditional art forms
I remember I was in Class 4 when I last played Gilli Danda, a game where you strike a small piece of wood with a stick. This was also the time when our grandmothers used to treat our injuries with a blend of natural products such as turmeric paste and other herbs.
However, times have changed. Children have now found a new world on a smartphone screen, while others have moved on to use chemicals found in stores to treat their skin. Amid the rise of technology and innovation in various fields, our environment has also been hit hard due to the reckless dumping of man-made waste.
As we ponder on these issues, Social Story came across Ancient Living during Jagrati Yatra, and understood its initiatives in working towards eco-friendly alternatives. Founded by Kalyani Gongi, the startup has taken certain steps to re-introduce eco-friendly products. The founder has also made efforts to revive dying traditions, culture, and bring back artisans and their skills of cultural art and painting.
Body care with an eco-friendly touch
Most conventional body care products that one sees in the market are usually laced with various chemicals and are mostly non-biodegradable. Unlike these products, Ancient Living, which was founded in 2010, ensures that its products don’t harm the environment when used or disposed of.
For instance, the soaps are made from herbs and natural oils that allow it to decompose with ease and cause no harm. The environmentalist also produces shampoo bars with natural oils, to reduce the use of plastic bottles.
Kalyani's father leads lemongrass harvesting in a village.
Speaking to SocialStory about Ancient Living, Kalyani says,
“I inherited valuable knowledge about the healing qualities of various herbs and aromatic plants that grew on our farm from my father. I was always inspired by the way our ancestors lived. I founded Ancient Living to recreate a magical journey that went back to our roots with eco-conscious merchandise. With a determination to create products that could be used by eco-conscious customers worldwide, I set up a factory with an in-house microbiology lab and R&D team. We want to create a positive impact on all stakeholders in the ecosystem.”
All body care products are wrapped in paper packs or butter paper, which is greaseproof and eco-friendly. Certain products come in plastic containers, which can be recycled and returned at their outlet.
Kalyani says, “Though we use next to minimum bottles, this way we tend to build customer engagement through our products and get their feedback.”
Reviving ancient culture and traditional art
Ancient Indian art and culture are on the verge of extinction. For instance, the well-known Cheriyal painting of Telangana has now ceased to exist, as there are only four people who still possess the skills and work with Ancient Living.
Kalyani says, “The team travels to places in search of these traditional arts. Over the years, I have found that people in the rural areas tend to migrate to cities in search of a better job and lifestyle, leaving behind ancient culture and art forms.”
The Hyderabad-based startup has employed several artists to work with them. These artists showcase their talent and art with various native games that are available at Ancient Living stores.
Ancient Living aims to revive traditional arts and crafts, and games played in olden days.
For instance, the classic game of Ludo and Pacheesi, well known in the state of Andhra Pradesh, come in a wooden box instead of plastic, on which these artists showcase their talent with immense precision and beauty. These games are not only a way of reviving culture but an attempt to bring back games that our older generations used to play.
Kalyani says, “Native games take us to the days of our childhood, and bringing them into the future is our contribution to a glorious, but almost forgotten past. Ancient Living’s Native Games are a revival of the rich heritage of traditional Indian games.”
Recapturing the essence and spirit of healthy competition and sportsmanship, the Native Games are meant to educate and stimulate. They games help sharpen planning, strategy skills, and build team spirit.
Empowering women in rural regions
Apart from following an environmental-friendly approach to body care and reviving dying art forms, Kalyani has also brought women into the mainstream through her programme, Vidya.
The programme empowers women by educating them about traditional crafts.
Kalyani says, “Women are the key agents for achieving economic, environmental, and social changes required for sustainable development in society. As a woman, I understand how financial independence can instil a sense of pride in other women.”
Women at work preparing a batch of organic soaps.
The startup has trained about 70 women to make aromatic candles, paper or cloth bags, and pouches. Under Vidya, women who are keen on learning, but are home bound, need not go out of their homes to work, as they are provided with an option to work from home. They are also provided with material and the finished product is collected when ready.
Ancient Living’s products are available at organic stores, pan-India. With a presence in Hyderabad, Vizag, Vijayawada, Nellore, and Mysore, Kalyani intends to open more stores this year. The startup also has an online presence, which connects it to customers across the world.
(Edited by Suman Singh)