Published: 26th May 2020
This Coimbatore-based start-up is making pens and pencils out of newspapers. Here's how
Pepaa Products collaborates with over 800 farmers and rural women to make their range of plantable, sustainable products
Did you know that 20 billion pencils are produced every year? And around 8 million trees are chopped to make those pencils? When Divya Shetty and Vishnu Vardhan came across this piece of trivia, they were taken aback. The husband-wife duo got to work and found a way to reduce deforestation and waste — they started using waste paper and old, discarded newspapers to make pencils and pens. They launched Coimbatore-based start-up Pepaa Products in 2017, which now makes plantable pencils, pens and notebooks.
Earlier known as Plantcil, the company reformed as Pepaa Products and partners with farmers and rural women. "We not only utilise waste paper for making pens and pencils, but we also use textile waste to make handmade paper and seed paper. The women are employed from villages in and around the Coimbatore district to embed the seeds to make the plantable pens and pencils and also help to produce the handmade papers," says Divya, "The rural women are an integral part of our operations."
Divya's decision to help the community comes from a tragic personal experience. "My grandfather was a farmer and my mother took over the reins after he passed away. He was suffering from cancer and couldn't afford to pay the medical bills. The increasing debt led him to commit suicide," recalls Divya, "I understood that my community was facing a lot of problems."
Vishnu was also deeply disturbed by the farmer suicides in the state. "I wanted to ensure that farmers can get more revenue. We started a company called Indian Superheroes - to work with Indian farmers," says Vishnu, who believes that farmers are the real heroes. Divya and Vishnu quit their respective jobs together and had wanted to work with farmers to try and uplift the community, she explains.Their partnership blossomed from this mutual concern about the state of farmers and their approach to the problem. "In the process, we ended up falling in love and got married," says Divya. What began with two organic farmers, including Divya's mother, has now become a collaboration with over 800 farmers. "The farmers still supply the raw materials for all the products we make today," adds Vishnu.
Divya Shetty and Vishnu Vardhan, Founders, Pepaa Products
The start-up has been providing stationery to various corporates across Tamil Nadu. "Initially, we were only making pencils, but it was some of the corporates who suggested us to make more stationery. We started making pens and notebooks shortly after," says Divya. Pepaa Products also makes sustainable wearables like wristbands, sustainable tags for clothes and sustainable invites and gifts. "We are focused on how we as a company can add value to another," adds Divya. Pepaa Products has been incubated at AIC Raise, a Coimbatore-based incubator that works with start-ups that create a social impact.