India is a fast-developing nation and ranks fifth in Gross Domestic Product and third in Purchasing Power Parity index. A massive boom in industrialisation, urbanisation and a rapid population explosion puts the country under pressure to generate enough resources to manage heaps of waste produced. With climate change and its effects becoming all too apparent, businesses must come up with ideas that reduce disposable waste and help in preserving the environment. A number of multinational companies focus on their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to do their bit for the environment. The question is if such businesses can do enough for society as well. 'Surprise Someone' is one such organisation whose foundation revolved around what could be done to make this world a better place.
Pinky Maheshwari, the organisation's co-founder, left a high-paying job to spend time with her little son. A conversation with him sparked the idea in her about making paper without cutting trees. Since both her parents were environmentalists, she also wanted to do her bit for the enviornment and the sociiety . The following day, she took an old vest from her father, cut it into small pieces and ground it in the mixers used at home. Thus, she formed the pulp, which was later dried in the sun. To her surprise, the result was a paper. After that, Maheshwari started taking workshops for children and teaching them how to make paper bags at home. Since she wanted to spend maximum time with her son, she thought of giving the little time from her day to this.
The Journey From One To 1 Lakh Paper Bags
Eventually, the internet provided her with more ideas about making paper bags. Since she did not know where to sell, she made a handful of bags and went to her old companies to sell them. She charged ₹ 10 for each bag and sold 10 units. Her husband dissuaded her from taking it up further. Nevertheless, she was not bogged down by it. The budding entrepreneur challenged herself that one day she would make 1 lakh paper bags. The co-founder achieved this goal in four-and-a-half years.
The enterprise looks forward to employing women from rural parts of Rajasthan. Pinky Maheshwari told The Logical Indian, "We are looking forward to including womenfolk who are generally told that they are meant to do just housework and are no good at anything else." She had realised that there was no dearth of art, creativity and talent in such rural areas during her corporate days. The initiative aims to add and uplift as many women as possible.
One exciting turning point in the venture's journey was when they started inducing seeds in their products. Currently, there are more than 1,000 products under different varieties on sale. Pinky Maheshwari added, "The vision was sustainable gifting for a sustainable celebration. We believe in giving back to the environment and uplifting women. A major criterion for us is not to earn money, but to earn the trust of people." The company has successfully made every festival sustainable by adding an environment-friendly feature to its products. For instance, during Diwali, the company sells plantable diyas, they make plantable hearts for occasions like Valentine's, and since Raksha Bandhan is coming up, they are selling plantable rakhis. Apart from that, they have innovated wedding cards by making them plantable so that the memory of such celebrations does not rot in landfills across the country.
When asked about the idea behind making plantable rakhis, the entrepreneur said, "Every year, sisters buy an expensive Rakhi for their brothers, who wear it for a day and put it in the drawer the next day. After three months during the regular Diwali cleaning, the rakhi finds its way to the dustbin along with other garbage. So our thought was that if instead of putting the rakhi in the drawer, it's better if it is put in the soil, there will probably be a plant by the next Raksha Bandhan. This way, we are emulating the significance of the relationship while saving the environment."
Delivered Sustainable Stationery To PMO's Office
'Surprise Someone' has been selected in the top 50 start-ups of the country in 2017 and was given space in the India International Trade fair in Pragati Maidan. They had also presented their organisation at the Start-up India initiative. They mentioned how they have been saving resources for the country and helping accelerate the growth of trees and uplift the lives of women from rural India. Former Minister for Commerce Suresh Prabhu had acknowledged this out-of-the-box initiative and signed a contract with 'Surprise Someone' for eco-friendly stationery for Prime Minister's Office. They have also received contracts from several foreign embassies because of how the government has helped promote their small business.
The megacities of India like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi are either sitting on or are surrounded by heaps of waste. The most pressing concern from such a vast quantity of waste is the release of methane gas. India generates more than 62 million tonnes of waste every year. About 43 million tonnes, which accounts for 70 per cent of the total figure, is collected waste. Unfortunately, India only processes 12 million tonnes of waste and the rest finds its way to the landfills. The emergence of responsible businesses is the need of the hour. The country would be a better and healthier place to live in if we focus on saving the environment for future generations instead of using the resources for temporary benefit. Climate change is affecting every individual across the planet, and global warming is no longer a myth. There are several government initiatives like Startup India that promote sustainable, eco-friendly, long-lasting and uplifting businesses.
In the words of Pinky Maheshwari, "It is not difficult to make products for high-end customers; what makes a difference is how we make high-end products for low-budget customers." The responsibility of the environment lies collectively on all citizens and not one initiative or person coming forward to clean the mess.