A Gurgaon-based company, Jaggery Bags recycles seatbelts from scrapped cars and cargo belts to make fancy bags. The business repurposes old seatbelts, soiled cargo belts, and ex-army canvas to make sustainable, long-lasting bags. The old belts are cleaned, measured and then dyed in various colours to make products out of them. So far, the company has used 4,000 metres of seat belts and 1,000 metres of cargo belts to make bags, organizers and travel kits.
While speaking to The Logical Indian, Gautam Malik, one of the founders, said, "We started in November 2015, and the company started with the intention of doing something to tackle the waste problem. We found that everywhere you go, especially the transition spaces between the suburbs and the city would be punctuated by urban and industrial waste."
The company's co-founders came from an architectural and academic background and wanted to address the issue aggressively. The idea for Jaggery Bags was born out of the need to resolve the local waste problem and wanted to come up with creative alternatives for upcycling waste.
Waste Segregation: A Source For Raw Materials
While speaking to The Logical Indian team, Malik mentioned, "Waste segregation mostly happens around landfills, but it does not happen at an individual domestic level. Therefore, initially, they did face an issue regarding sourcing the raw material for the venture." Answering how the founders zeroed upon making bags, Malik mentioned that they all knew it would be a product but were unsure if it would be bags only. The decision of finally coming onto making bags was a result of trial and error, he mentioned.
While recalling the initial days, he said, "Materials like truck tarpaulin mainly near countryside is flimsy, and we got a hold of that and made some products like stools, the age-old charpai and other material. However, they did not stand out and could not last long enough."
One of the materials the company uses every day is something that most people touch every day, like seatbelts. Then they came across the nylon cargo belts used to tie cargo in the massive containers on highways. Malik gave a better reference by mentioning that a metre of the cargo belt can withstand 4,500 pounds of weight. While researching the potential business ideas, Malik mentioned that when the team came across the cargo belt, they found their 'eureka' moment because nobody was making anything of the same sort. Additionally, he mentioned that cargo belts are durable and long-lasting.
When asked about how they check the quality, Gautam told The Logical Indian, "My wallet is from the first batch of wallets we had ever produced for the startup. Even after almost six years, it is as good as new is not going to spoil for forever". He said that his experience as a designer for such products in New York helped niche make bags.
The founders of Jaggery Bags are Gautam Malik, his wife Bhawna Dandona and his mother Dr Usha Malik. The family came back to India from the United States in 2010, after which Gautam Malik worked in an e-commerce company, where he worked as a product and creative head. During this tenure, Malik came across a study on sustainability. He recognized the gap between sustainability and small indian makers who are trying to address and fulfil the needs of the global sustainable market. After that, the founders recognized that it was a good market to start a homegrown Indian Brand to recreate and repurpose the waste into functional, practical, smart and different products that customers do not commonly encounter.
'Felt Apprehensive While Leaving A Well-Paying Job'
When asked about how Malik felt while leaving a well-paying job and starting something of his own, he answered, "Yes, obviously, I was very apprehensive to leave an environment when you are in the flow of having some money coming in every month and you are financially more secure. However, I utilized my hard-earned money and some savings and charted on this path, and it felt unpredictable, more so because it had not been done before. It was hard to check if we were performing, or if we were performing or not, simply because there were no parameters to go by. "
However, he said, "Thankfully, there were some signs that were telling us that we were not treading the wrong path, and so we kept going. We were getting more interaction from global leaders kept us going, even though we were not yet known in India, we thought and believed that we were doing something beneficial." India has always been a very price-conscious country, and we knew that the way was pricing our products, we knew it would take us a while to be accepted.
While speaking to The Logical Indian the founder said that one of the first steps was to develop a well-designed and easily accessible website and have a social media presence also. Secondly, he mentioned that the company participated in museum events and other cultural festivals like Kala Ghoda in Mumbai, or Diwali Mela at the Indian embassy or Christmas Mela in the US embassy.
The Naming Journey of 'Jaggery Bags'
Gautam Malik told The Logical Indian team that zeroing upon the name 'Jaggery Bags' was an exciting ride in itself. They stuck with the name because, for ages, Indians have used jaggery as a meaningful alternative to sugar. He further added, "Similarly, we make bags in small batches that are alternatives to mass-produced bags that are harmful to the environment. We wanted to take a softer and wittier way to address the issue of waste. Jaggery moreover, found a connect with Indians".
One of the founders, Dr Usha Malik, mother to Gautam Malik, was previously a professor in Miranda House and helped manage the company's workshops and accounts. Bhawna Dandona, on the other hand, was his college friend, whom he later married. The company, Jaggery Bags, now has nine members and works on the principles of global citizenship and eco-friendliness.