Maria Kuriakose from Thrissur, Kerala, started Thenga in 2019 and so far has sold over 8,000 products made from discarded coconut shells.
What happens to the shell after the coconut is scraped out in most households that happen to love the fruit? In most cases, it is discarded as waste. Imagine then, the number of coconut shells that a coconut oil mill produces on average. Inspired by the sheer volume of shells generated in an oil mill in Thrissur, 26-year-old Maria Kuriakose decided to convert the discarded shells into kitchenware.
In 2019, Maria launched her own brand called Thenga (Coconut) that specialises in making products out of coconut shells. Not wanting to start with a very large monetary investment, she sought help from her father, Kuriakose Varoo (65), a retired Mechanical Engineer. It was his prowess that led to the development of a low-cost machine that could easily scrub the coconut shell and smoothen it out. It soon became a family venture with Maria’s mother, Jolly also chipping in with sourcing the coconut shells from nearby oil mills.
Within a short span of time, the business also onboarded 10 artisans to help make the kitchenware. The intent behind the venture is to stay as eco-friendly as possible and to further that even the polish used to attain a glossy finish on the bowl is coconut oil rather than a chemical varnish.
From starting out with just bowls and cups, the brand today has forayed into making teacups, candle holders and even planters. With more than 8,000 products sold, Maria is now looking at expanding into the European markets.