An Eco and Economic Friendly Initiative
Sanchi Bags, founded in 2013 is an innovative business venture to produce various types of cotton and jute bags. More than a business, it’s an eco friendly movement to spread the message to people about the importance of protecting our valuable resources and nature. Apart from business outcome, the initiative has shown great social commitment by empowering women from rural areas of Kerala.
The whole idea behind this initiative is based on what we call as ‘3-Dimensional vision’
⦁ Eco-friendly movement
⦁ Women Empowerment
⦁ Entrepreneurship among youngsters
There was a time when ‘sanchis’ or ‘thol sanchi’ made of cotton ruled the entire schools, colleges and in our entire society as a medium of carrying things, as a style statement and as a pound member of indigenous products. It’s been decades that we left our sanchis in the dark corners of our rooms and started using bags made of synthetic materials. We are aware that these colourful bags with international brand names are made up of non-bio degradable materials apparently making our nature polluted. However, to satisfy customers’ numerous needs, those bags became an inevitable choice. This perplexing question hit our heads many times when we had our discussions to start a business. Our motto was to start a business which gives something back to the society; not just making profit.
There is a small incident which actually gave us a spark to go with bags. It was in 2012 when we attended international film festival in Trivandrum and one of my friend wore this “old thol-sanchi” which he got somewhere from his grandfather’s collections. He just had this sanchi as a ‘show off’ at film festival to give others the impression that he also belong to the ‘Born intelligent’ community. To our surprise many including foreigners asked him from where he got this sanchi and they were keen to have one for themselves. That brought a question in our minds – Why don’t we make a solution for this? We started searching for sanchis in the stores and we were disappointed with the response from the shop owners that – sanchis have no business value nowadays and it’s a dead product! And we decided to make the dead one Alive!
Before jumping deep into the jungle, we decided to research on the business viability, impact on public and social commitments related to this business. We conducted a survey to study on the average use of non-bio degradable products in the households on a daily basis. Our study concludes that the ill effect of plastic and other non-bio degradable products arose mainly out of its use as packaging materials, particularly with the introduction of the carry bags. Plastics at present account for about 21% of all packaging materials. In India, plastic waste accounts for only 0.6% of municipal solid waste, whereas in urban areas of Kerala, it is as high as 4 – 6% almost at par with any developed economies with disposable life style contributing about 8 % of solid wastes.
This clearly indicated where we should focus on to start our mission, as our first vision states, our product should be 100% eco-friendly. Our next challenge was to find the sources and contacts for getting the raw material – organic cotton and Jute fabrics. We set out on a journey covering various places in Tamil Nadu known for their rich fabric history. We roamed around the main textile cities in South India -Tirupur, Madurai, Karur, Coimbatore, Kancheepuram and Bangalore to name a few. The knowledge, experience and the contacts we acquired were unaccustomed and thrilling. That actually created a conviction in all of us to make this mission happen.
Getting the material wasn’t the toughest job we faced; it was the resources and the machines to make the bags. We decided not to give this prestigious opportunity to the established commercial bag makers in kerala, instead we wanted to carve out a bunch of skilled labours from the unemployed and unprivileged women in our neighbourhood. It was an epic moment for all of us to talk to the ‘Kudumbasree’ members in rural areas in Venjaramoodu to take over this challenge and become a part of our eco-friendly movement. The extremely co-operative members of ‘Kudumbasree’ said “Yes” to our project and it didn’t take much time for us to bring together the machineries to set up a small stitching unit at Venjaramoodu and Chelakkara. We have arranged several training sessions and hands-on for the Kudumbasree staffs. With almighty’s grace, everything went well and our first completed product saw light in 3 weeks. We designed the bags ourselves and focused on getting trendy and classy colours and combination in our bags to attract youth. Today our units in Trivandrum and Thrissur together produce around 100 bags/day with a staff base of 30 enthusiastic women. By the time with all our local contacts, we have already got some bulk orders for the leading organizations in Kerala. Interestingly in the next film festival conducted in Trivandrum, we sold a hefty 300 pieces of our very sanchi bags to our customers!
We started with the dream to spread across the larger customers precisely those potential buyers who care for the nature. We must thank the youth in Kerala who are the proud owners of Sanchi Bags; being our brand ambassadors in their locality/ institution. We could attract lot of young minds into our mission and they supported our mission through social media and events. Many youngsters were inspired by our move and some of them even started similar businesses. Though this mission was a success in Trivandrum, the presence of Sanchi bags was amplified highly just after it was featured on the leading TV channels and News Papers in Kerala. The support and encouragement we got from the media has been tremendous. We started to get hundreds of calls every day and it was a huge learning phase for all of us about how contacts and media can catalyse our mission. Most of the calls we got were to appreciate our effort, some were eager to know about the business and its viability, some actually wanted to invest on us.
We decided to make minimal profit to run this business and wanted to be a light for others who follow our vision. Our staffs were paid fairly for the effort they took to deliver the orders on time. We were getting more than enough orders to call it as a small business unit. The unit was registered and we doubled our production by increasing our staff strength. Mostly we were getting bulk orders for seminars and conferences from various government and private organizations. Our clients include Malayala Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Press Information Bureau of India, IIST, GES, Political Party meetings, CET Alumni association, Kanthari and so on. Our client base increase day by day as we grow along the contact tree. We have made our presence across the globe by selling and promoting sanchi bags. We have our esteemed clients in Germany, UK, US, Canada, Australia, Nigeria, Sudan and Poland.
In 2015, we introduced the ‘Sanchi’ branding, logo and website together in a event conducted in Technopark.
Sanchi bags produce a variety of bags as listed below:
⦁ Cotton Bags
⦁ Jute Bags
⦁ File Folders
⦁ Laptop Sleeves
⦁ I-Pad Sleeves
What Else we do?
Apart from the business perspective, we have organised and have been a part of many events to promote eco-friendly movement in and out of Technopark and our future plan is to conduct many awareness events across India to promote our vision.
We have a strong relationship with the well-known organization –Kanthari, which offers leadership program for visionaries who have overcome adversity and who are keen to drive ethical social change. In an effort to support the charity organizations in Kerala, we help them in conducting stalls by providing sanchi products at a minimal profit and they sell the product with moderate profit.