Odisha born Chandni Khandelwal says she had always been concerned over the usage of plastics, especially when it comes to packaging.
“When I was living in a hostel in college, we used to get carry away meals for lunch and dinner, which were packed in plastic bags. This always bothered me, and I wondered where these plastics would go once we threw them away. I started collecting them in my trolley bag after washing and drying them. In two years, I collected two trolleys full of plastic bags. Instead of dumping them, I converted them into planters and some home utility products,” Chandni recalls in a conversation with The Better India.
Over time, this concern for the environment culminated in her launching Ecoloop, a startup that focuses on eco-friendly packaging products. As Chandni explains, ‘eco’ denotes the environment, and ‘loop’ indicates the shape that ends where it begins.
Launched in September 2021, the startup has sold its products all over India, earning a monthly revenue of Rs 1-2 lakh per month.
Handmade with love
Chandni, a graduate of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Bhubaneswar, says she had always been intrigued by arts and crafts. She adds that it was her mother who encouraged her to pursue her interests.
“So once I finished my class 10, I joined the School of Arts and Crafts, Baripada, where I was mentored by the late Shyam Prasad Patnaik Sir. He was a true inspiration for me. I took his suggestion and joined NIFT. This opened a lot of doors for me, including the launch of my startup,” says Chandni, who specialised in fashion and lifestyle accessory design.
At NIFT, Chandni had the opportunity to attend several craft clusters in Odisha, where students closely worked with local artisans who made products out of natural materials.
She elaborates, “While working with local artisans, I came across several natural materials used for crafting such as sabai grass, bamboo, palm leaves, paper mache, etc. That’s when a thought came to my mind — why not use these materials for packaging? A little bit of mechanisation and artisanal techniques would be required, but we could bring out a very sustainable form of packaging that could replace plastics.”
Ecoloop currently makes gift packaging using natural materials like sabai grass, palm leaves, paper mache, bamboo, and more. The startup makes around 20 types of products including baskets, trays, and boxes. “We are designing an entire gifting experience in a sustainable way. We are also exploring materials like rice straws to replace the styrofoam boards used in packaging. We are using bamboo and leaves to make boxes for baked goods like cakes and cookies,” says Chandni.
Sabai grass, a natural raw material mainly used to make paper pulp/rope, grows in abundance in Odisha and West Bengal. Chandni says this helped her source it easily, and work with artisans who were familiar with the material.
She notes that a majority of Ecoloop’s products are made by several artisan clusters across Odisha. “These were formed by the Odisha Rural Development And Marketing Society (ORMAS) and have been making handicrafts out of sabai grass for the past 11 years. I first came in contact with them during my college days and later when I worked for a year at ORMAS. So, when I decided to launch Ecoloop, I reached out to them to make my products, and they were happy to work with me,” she explains.
“I also work with a few artisans from Kashmir to make paper mache products and some from the Northeast who deal with bamboo products. Now I have around 500 artisans working for Ecoloop,” adds Chandni, who has recently shifted to Delhi.
The artisans, who are mainly women, are specially trained to make the packaging products for Ecoloop. Chandni says “I have been training a lot of artisan clusters including sabai grass artisans and traditional bamboo artisans from Sambalpur. In Balasore, I formed a cluster of 15 women to make packaging. Now, with the support of the government, they are running their own enterprise.”
Ecoloop’s products are marketed over different platforms of social media, says Chandni, who now plans to launch a website. “We find our customers mostly through social media, and have sold over 500 units of sustainable packaging across the country,” she says.
She adds, “My initial investment in Ecoloop was Rs 20,000. Now we’re generating around Rs 1-2 lakh per month.”
Chandni says her husband, who runs an Agritech startup, has been an integral part of developing Ecoloop as a brand and has always been a great support to her.
Talking about her future plans, she says, “We are planning to open a store in Saket, Delhi shortly. Currently, all our products are handmade and in order to make them cost-effective, we are planning to mechanise the venture partially.”
“In the near future, we are thinking of exploring more natural raw materials like different types of leaves. We also want to introduce packaging accessories using wildflowers, corn husks, etc.,” she says.
To place orders or for more information, you can visit their Instagram.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)
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