[Sustainability Agenda] This innovative startup wants you to pick seed crackers over firecrackers this Diwali

With its Beej Patakhas, 21 Fools is reimaging Indian festive celebrations, which do not result in smog, air pollution, and soil pollution but instead become beautiful plants.
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Divyanshu Asopa, Founder and CEO of 21 Fools, is trying to provide the new generation with an option to opt for a conscious celebration of Indian festivals.

In 2010, Divyanshu started 21 Fools from his hostel room at the Delhi College of Engineering. Initially started as an e-magazine, the startup pivoted to its current business model of creating sustainable and innovative products.

With this festive season, 21 Fools aims to influence the new generation about adopting more sustainable practices.

Diwali feels incomplete without diyas and firecrackers. However, with increasing awareness around the environmental impact of some festive practices, more people are moving towards more sustainable alternatives. 

“It was time for all of us to collectively rethink. Before Diwali, our team understood that we need to create a sustainable option for those products, which are an essential part of Indian festivals,” Divyanshu remarks.

He believes the openness in Indian culture to adopt new stories, new perspectives, and new forms of rituals and tradition make this country special. 

With its Beej Patakhas, 21 Fools is reimaging celebrations, which do not result in smog, air pollution, and soil pollution but instead become beautiful plants. 

The Beej Patakhas are made using waste cotton paper, seed balls, and live seeds, while the packaging is made of paper and recycled cardboard. 

Priced at Rs 899, the Beej Patakha box comes with numerous ‘seed crackers’ fashioned after traditional firecrackers like Sutli bomb and Anar

The seeds embedded in them include onion, coriander, cucumber, and mustard, among many others. The box also contains 11 hand-painted diyas made by craftswomen from the Jaipur-based Prajapati Community

“We just hope that society understands the usage of firecrackers is really new, and it has nothing to do with the way Diwali has been celebrated for hundreds of years. By abandoning the usage of firecrackers, we would actually be going back to the way we really used to celebrate the festival — by lighting diyas,” explains Divyanshu. 

With Beej Patakhas, 21 Fools provides an alternative — a box full of nostalgia — in the form of look-alike firecrackers that are supposed to be sown in the soil and not burst into flames and smoke. 

 

With its vibrant colours and interesting package, it makes for a unique gifting option this Diwali. 

Incorporating conscious practices into traditional festivities 

One of 21 Fools’ earlier innovations, Beej Rakhis, was started in 2017 with plantable paper that grows to a plant when sown in the soil.

Priced between Rs 349 to 399, the rakhis are made from pre-used waste cotton and are embedded with seeds, which decomposes in the soil within few weeks. Earlier last year, the startup shifted to cotton thread rakhis embedded with seeds.

While its focus was B2B earlier, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, 21 Fool’s corporate orders dried up, leading to selling the products directly to customers through its website, Amazon, and a few other online stores.

The startup collaborates with farmers, artisans, and craftspersons from Kot Jewar, Sanganer, Jodhpur, and Chhindwara to create products, ranging from cotton bags to clay oil lamps. 

"When a customer is paying for the product, they are not just paying for the material or making charges but also for the non-farming days of our craftspersons, whose livelihood depends on it," Divyanshu explains.

To date, it has created over four million plantable seed paper products that grow into plants.

Early days

Reflecting on 21 Fool’s journey, Divyanshu says, “We started as an e-magazine, but somehow rushed to make it financially viable for us. To do so, we pivoted into the greeting card space and started making greeting cards and stationery for corporations.”

Around the same time, the startup realised it was not solving any real problem but was actually adding to the environmental burden by using paper made from wood pulp. 

“Sanganer is a hub of making paper from waste cotton, and that’s how our journey of sustainability started. We partnered with a handmade paper startup in Sanganer and started making paper and paper products from there,” he recalls. 

Having launched seed paper in 2014, today, 21 Fool’s is India’s biggest manufacturer of plantable paper.

To date, it has worked with over 400 companies, providing plantable stationery products like calendars and diaries. 

 

“Beej Rakhis, reclaimed wood office desk essentials, and cork cloth organisers are some of the products that have worked well for us in the last few years,” Divyanshu explains. 

With an uptick in interest in sustainable solutions, the path for 21 Fools looks interesting. “We really want to become a one-stop shop for premium sustainable paper in India,” Divyanshu comments on the road forward for the startup.


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Edited by Suman Singh