To encourage people to live more sustainably is one thing. But India Inc’s entrepreneurs have joined in the cause in a bigger way. They’re building infrastructure, manufacturing products and offering services that help every Indian (and the citizens of the world) to make the switch.
This is the inspiring story of one such entrepreneur, Rhea Singhal. Founder and CEO of Ecoware – India's first and largest sustainable packaging company, Rhea, a former Pharmachologist, married and moved to India in 2009.
“While I was born in Mumbai, I grew up in Dubai and UK. When I moved back, I was shocked at how waste management happens back home, as against what I have been seeing abroad.”
She highlights the wasteful packaging and how all the household waste would go into a single dustbin. She decided that something needed to be done. While how much is discarded could not be controlled, if the waste itself was completely biodegradable, it would help still.
So, with guidance from her father-in-law, who is a chemical engineer, Rhea set out on a mission to create what is today, Ecoware.
“The brand is built on three guiding principles – our products had to be safe for humanity and environment, we had to create impact in everything we did, and the third, we had to be authentic.”
She dedicated an entire year in R&D and market research. She would head to Chandni Chowk, a famous market in Delhi, to get Styrofoam products for research. A year later, Ecoware began as a project, with 20 people and two machines. Their first and largest order was executed in 2010 when the Commonwealth Games were held in Delhi.
Soon, the project took flight and they worked with more clients. Three years in, Rhea realised that this wasn’t merely a project – it had to grow and sustain as a business to address the increasing demand. Indian Railways soon became a client, and they helped replace packaging for leading F&B clients, as well as partner in zero-waste events.
They decided to sell online through their own website as well as through leading ecommerce aggregators, to reach as many people as possible.
“It only made sense to start with F&B. Wouldn’t it be great if good food was matched with sustainable packaging.”
At the same time, they increasingly expand to other industries.
“I believe in the power of innovation. We actively look for and ask ourselves – who else can we help give up single use plastic?”
They use paddy stock to manufacture these products, to discourage farmers from burning fields – a major environmental concern in North India.
Through Ecoware, she has been able to encourage over 50 million people to switch away from single-use plastics, to biodegradable packaging. These products are completely made out of crop waste, are safe to use in the freezer and for baking and are known to break down in 90 days.
“Sustainability is the need of the hour. Let’s move beyond being conscious consumers, and adapt responsible habits”, says Rhea who insists we must be conscious of the impact our actions have on the environment.