About four years ago, Prem Antony, an event manager, decided to go zero-waste. The amount of plastic around him—right from the flimsy carry bags to the big grain containers was indicative of the burden we are imposing on the environment.
Soon, single-use plastic materials in his life were replaced by reusables, and the eco-warrior decided that this initiative would have to take a holistic turn.
South India’s first organic zero-waste grocery store!
If you look at its inventory, EcoIndian is just like any other grocery store in Chennai. You will find your share of grains, pulses and millets here. You can also purchase honey and skin care products.
But unlike most conventional stores, these products won’t be stored or sold in plastic. Rather, they will make use of glass, steel, and any material that the customers bring for themselves.
Speaking to The Better India, the 38-year-old entrepreneur says, “My mission to go zero-waste was translated into an organic store by the name of EcoIndian. My close friend, N Pradeep Kumar and I were friends since class 10. Over the years, our bond grew stronger, thanks to our common ties. When I conceptualised EcoIndian, there was no doubt that I would seek his partnership in the business. This grocery shop was started in 2018, but we were not zero-waste then.”
They realised that their products might be organic and homemade, but the amount of plastic used in packaging was harming their cause. EcoIndian was thus, not aligning with its ideology.
“So, two months ago, we made the leap and went zero-waste,” Pradeep says, adding, “All our plastic containers and bags were replaced by glass bottles, stainless steel containers, butter sheets and cotton bags. But another thing that sets us apart from other organic stores is our BYOC policy—Bring Your Own Container—and avail a 5% discount at the store!”
Packaging products is a costly process for consumers as well as the environment. It begins when the farmer packs their grains into huge gunny bags and ends when the consumer buys a few grams or kilos of the product. EcoIndian decided to cut this process altogether.
“We work directly with farmer communities in and around Chennai. That way, we cut the middleman whose involvement only increases the price of the product. This also allows us to speak freely with organic farmers. When we decided to go zero-waste, we approached the farmers too, who were happy to give us unpackaged products. EcoIndian is saving 8-10% of the costs incurred through packaging, and we are sharing this profit with our customers,” Pradeep informs.
The Chennai store aims to give you a completely eco-friendly experience, and as an incentive, you get to buy products that are about 10% cheaper than the average organic store.
Not only is it equipped with staples, you will also find sanitary cloth napkins, menstrual cups, reusable notebooks (you write on them with an ordinary pen or pencil and wipe them off with a wet cloth when done), pickles, jams and other such products that are organic, handmade and have a long shelf life.
Prem tells us that another mini-initiative by the store is to get over the minimum-buy concept. A supermarket will have pre-packed grains of certain quantities, and your local grocery store will tell you that you need to buy a minimum 250 gm of grains.
But not EcoIndian.
He explains, “Our customers can bring their own containers, and buy whatever quantities of grains or pulses they please. Whether it is 10 gm or one kilo, we don’t care. This initiative stems from our fight against food wastage. You buy the quantity you need, there’s no restriction from us.”
And so, about ten of their clients have sworn their loyalty already and an average of three new customers are added every week. They buy anywhere from a sample of staples to a week’s ration. The 450 sq feet shop offers a wide variety of daily essentials, so you don’t feel the unique, organic, zero-waste shop is inadequate for your needs.
A concept that we love, the two-month-old EcoIndian is already generating positive feedback. You can contact Pradeep on +91 81240 01177 or visit the store.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Images: courtesy Pradeep Kumar N