Published: 15th June 2018
This Bengaluru couple is saving the planet while also creating jobs for underprivileged women
The women who benefit from greenBUG work in Bangalore too are deserving of all the support that they can be given and are eager to earn the supplemental income that the work brings them
Recently the Tamil Nadu government announced that there would be a complete ban on plastic, now Telangana is set to follow suit. Karnataka had done the same quite a while ago, in general, lately, a lot of action is being taken with the aim to reduce such use of plastic. People are turning to more eco-friendly and healthier alternatives, and when they can't find one- they create it themselves! That's exactly what this Bengaluru couple is doing.
GreenBUG is a uniquely designed eco-friendly dustbin liner. It is an alternative to plastic liners. It is made out of used newspaper and starch glue. It can be used conveniently in kitchens, bathrooms, under desks, office rooms, etc. Its unique design allows it to fit into any shape of a dustbin and makes it tough enough even for kitchen wet waste. As a product in itself, it is clean enough to be composted in months.
"People use greenBUG liners, not just because it's a responsible way to dispose off waste, but also because it is hygienic, convenient and functional," says Arun Balachandran, co-founder of greenBUG.
Arun also added that they were surprised when they saw people using it creatively, "While greenBUG goes into the market as a dustbin liner, several of our customers have started getting creative with the way that they use this aesthetically designed bag. Some of the interesting uses that we have come across are storing vegetables/fruits, gift packing for festivals, carry pouch, travel dustbin, etc."
Environment-friendly: greenBUG's unique design allows it to fit into any shape of a dustbin and makes it tough for wet kitchen waste
GreenBUG is not just a business started by the couple but it became a social enterprise gradually. We asked them how - "Having designed the greenBUG bag and subsequently having received a very positive response to our pilot test in the market, we then grappled with the question of production. One option was to mechanize the process. The other option was to make it an employment scheme for the less fortunate, making the venture far more meaningful than with the first option. Right at the outset, we decided that our producers would all be women – we had seen many surveys, articles, research reports over the years that concluded that employing women had a far greater impact on family well-being. This was especially so for women who were homebound and had no other economic opportunity. We chose option two – as you know now – and pay them a fair wage," said Arun.
He said that most of the women were keen as they were provided with the flexibility of working from home at their own time, which in turn allows them to enter the workforce and earn a dignified income.
The women are trained first, following which they are free to decide if they want to make the bags, how many, when, and where they would produce, and whether they would do it alone or form teams with other women.
"Most of the women who decide to produce greenBUG liners have never stepped out to work. Also, the product design is a new one. So, the training cycle can be anywhere from 3-6 weeks. During this period, it’s not just teaching them the steps to make the garbage bags, but also to help with their soft skills; encourage and motivate them, pep-up their self-confidence, get approval from their families, etc. When they have stuck around for 4-5 interventions, they usually continue to produce the bags, as by then they will have ironed out all necessary aspects," Jyoti explained.
The greenBUG team has so far trained 200 plus women.
Arun, an engineer, and his wife Jyoti Pahadsingh, who is a consultant by profession, started greenBUG in 2015 as they were passionate about promoting green and responsible living. Currently, it has become a full-time engagement for them.
"We do intend to bring out more innovative and functional eco-friendly products for daily use. We piloted two such products last year and plan to launch them after seeing the dustbin liner through to stability. We would like GreenBUG to become a household brand, which makes day-to-day eco-friendly living convenient," Arun added.
As a 100 per cent handmade product, production cost was very high at the beginning. As a product with a brand new design, there wasn’t a ready labour force who knew how to make it, and the couple's plan on employing disadvantaged women in their own environment, rather than skilled labour, made it even more challenging. However, that worked out eventually.
For a long time, the entrepreneurs ran greenBUG as a small social project from home. As awareness and demand grew, they had to move operations to a warehouse
"It's a tightrope walk between meeting costs and serving a social purpose, but we have made it work until now, and are confident of seeing through the necessary growth and evolution. We hope to continue innovating and making it easy for people to adopt an eco-responsible life," says Arun.
A bug too green: greenBUG is a social enterprise that helps empower underprivileged women
GreenBUG is available in some of the leading organic stores in Bengaluru. These stores also have their own online presence but each of them typically caters only to specific areas. Towness.com and greenBUG's online store gogreenbug.com allows the product to reach out to customers in all parts of Bengaluru. Since December 2017, greenBUG has been listed on Amazon Saheli, a specialized Amazon store for women artisans. Amazon Saheli (www.amazon.in/saheli) enabled the product to reach a much wider market all across India.
"Word-of-mouth from happy users has been greenBUG’s mainstay. Many green evangelists do not just use greenBUG but actively introduce it to more communities, businesses, and customers," says Arun.
What's with the awesome name?
"Originally, BUG was a convenient acronym for the three words – “Bangalore Urban Garbage” – sandwiched between “green” and “bags”. Hence, greenBUG bags. Of course, “greenBUG” would also convey the meaning of a person inclined to be green, much like how a travel bug is inclined to travel!" says Arun.
Also, another reason for the name, they said would that bugs are a good indicator of the health of an ecosystem. Then, bugs are cute. So, everything just fell into place for this Bengaluru couple, who ventured out to make a difference.