Envigreen’s green technology is solving major social problem
07th, September 2017 - Tech Startup
Ashwath Hegde is an NRI businessman who is based in Qatar with a strong background in entrepreneurship. He holds degrees in business from St. Therese High School, St. Anthony College, Naravi, Indira Gandhi Open University, and Cambridge Marketing College. He founded Envigreen, a social enterprise, which is based in Bangalore, India, at the age of 24. This enterprise manufactures bags, which are environmentally friendly, as they are made out of materials that are 100% biodegradable like natural starch, tapioca, and potato waste, banana peels, and vegetable oil.
Hegde is a very savvy, smart, clever, and observant entrepreneur with a keen interest in environmental conservation and social welfare. A plum opportunity arose for him in 2012 when Bangalore’s government banned the use of plastic bags when no safe alternatives existed. The ban negatively affected the local economy because the common man and farmers could no longer afford the substantially more expensive alternatives. Hegde noticed that this was a problem, and he assembled a team of scientists who spent four and a half years researching and developing safer solutions that were affordable, and environmentally friendly.
The result was Envigreen, a budding star in terms of eco-friendliness and environmental sustainability. Hegde ensured that his company became a success by doing thorough research and due diligence beforehand. He set up interviews with business people, and people in the Ministry of Environment in Qatar to better understand the problems of environmental sustainability that they were facing, and if his idea of producing the first completely biodegradable bag was even viable. He interviewed business people and government officials in India to better understand the need for environmentally friendly bags and other consumable products. His hard work came to fruition because he was able to assemble a team of 60 people, mainly scientists, and set up a factory in Karnataka which produces these bags.
Hegde could not have entered the market at a better time because the global consumption of plastics has increased exponentially from 5 million pounds in the 1950’s to one hundred million pounds today. India alone generates thirty thousand pounds of plastic annually, of which only eighteen thousand pounds are recycled – the remainder pollutes the environment and threatens the viability of agriculture and livestock. Ashwath is an altruistic person who is sensitive to the needs of the downtrodden, because his company is a social enterprise, meaning that it produces products that benefit the public good for a profit. Hegde empowers the local community in Karnataka State by purchasing and placing contracts for all of Envigreen’s raw materials with farmers in that state.
Ashwath Hegde’s brainchild has a bright future because Envigreen’s products and its benefits for its consumers and their local communities has attracted the attention of many Ministries of India, and is participating in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swacch Bharat Initiative. Demand for these bags, and related products, is so high that Hegde built a manufacturing plant in Mangalore, Karnataka State, which produces 1,000 metric tons of bags monthly.
Because Hegde has strong business sense, he has global aspirations for his environmentally friendly bags and related products. While the products are currently not available for sale in India, they are currently being marketed and distributed in Qatar and Abu Dhabi. Hegde wishes to let time take its course, and let awareness of environmentally friendly products grow in India before foraying into the Indian market. While he has already entered into contracts with such mega-store chains as Metro and Reliance, he wants to build up manufacturing capacity in India before marketing and distributing bags to local grocers, where the masses shop.
Hegde managed to create a global market for his products by launching them at fairs on Qatar’s national annual National Environment Day on February 26, 2016. The bags are currently selling very successfully in the UAE, and Hegde’s initiatives have become so popular among the masses in the UAE that the Environment Ministry in Qatar has officially appreciated them and Hegde’s products are being sold to many top stores in the UAE.
Envigreen’s bags are gaining popularity because they are priced reasonably. A traditional plastic bag costs INR 2, and is very harmful to the environment; however Envigreen bag costs INR 3, whereas more environmentally friendly alternatives are much more expensive – for example cloth bags cost between INR 20 to 70. Greater awareness of environmentally friendly products will lead to more demand, and this coupled with increasingly strict global regulations will dramatically increase the markets for the bags; thereby strengthening the market base and brand of Envigreen and its bags.
Ashwath Hegde is a visionary in that he intends to launch mass education programs informing the general public in India about the benefits of using his bags. He also wants to distribute his bags in as many hospitals and health care clinics as possible to make them more environmental and patient friendly. This measure will help him create a brand and legacy for his company and its products and will make the general public more environmentally conscious. His ambitions bring to mind Henry Ford’s motives behind his desire to pay his workers much more than the average factory worker. His reasoning was that they would be able to afford his cars at a time when the automobile industry was emerging in America and would help to entrench the automobile in America. His incentives worked, and Ford cars became an American icon for many decades, as his Model-T became akin with the growing popularity of the American car culture.
Hegde’s vision is likely to materialise because he has already held high-level talks with the Indian Union Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar, and the Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, both of whom are very impressed by the product and have approved for large-scale distribution and usage in India. Hegde’s plans for expansion for Envigreen’s manufacturing capacity were ambitious because he established a large-scale factory for manufacturing bags made out of corn starch for the general public in July of 2016. He sourced the corn from local Karnataka-based farmers, thus capitalising on Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” concept. He is supplying these raw materials to local plastic factories that were forced to shut down because of the Bangalore government’s ban on plastics. The idea is for them to make similar bags, while Hegde receives a share of the profits.
Hegde has further entrenched his concept and products in the Indian market by talking with another local but key player in the Indian government – officials in the Karnataka Milk Federation in regards to contracts for the production of bags to distribute milk in. The plan is to make these bags out of corn starch.
Envigreen’s biodegradable bags are truly unique because of their innovative manufacturing process. Unlike other types of biodegradable bags, these bags are safe for human and animal consumption. These bags decompose naturally if left out at room temperature for 24 consecutive hours, and will dissolve in 15 seconds when immersed in boiling water. The raw materials that the bags are made out of will decompose after 180 days, making them completely safe for the environment. The bags are manufactured using 12 to 14 different natural ingredients, most of which are vegetable waste products. An involved six step process is used to manufacture the bags, which are coloured using dyes from organic products.
The bags have gone through a battery of rigorous tests to indicate that they are 100% safe for the environment. The bags have been placed on hot iron rods, and have neither melted, or stuck to the roads, thus indicating that the bags do not contain plastic at all. The bags maintain character when subjected to extreme stress, and do not release any toxins into the environment upon decomposition. The excellent responses to these tests have prompted many local, national, and regional regulatory agencies to approve the bags for distribution to the general public. Evergreen produces a wide variety of environmentally friendly products, including trash bags, wrappers, daily carry bags, bin liners, etc
Thus far, Hegde seems to be an entrepreneurial genius with a lot of potentials, but only time, destiny, and a good plan, and strategy on the part of Hegde will determine his long-term success and potential.
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