Bengaluru-based Vaibhav Anant quit his job to launch the eco-friendly startup Bambrew, which makes packaging with bamboo and wood pulp to replace plastic.
In 2018 when Vaibhav Anant was working with a Delhi-based ed-tech startup, there was a lot of noise around the Government of India’s very public decision to phase out single-use plastics by 2022. This, he says, got him interested in the subject of single-use plastic (SUP) and its ill-effects. (Vaibhav Anant, CEO and founder of Bambrew, a green-tech sustainable packaging startup, on the left)
“In the course of my research, I also came across a viral video of a marine biologist removing a plastic straw stuck in a sea turtle’s nose. Watching that animal suffer was very painful and inspired me to create a solution, given the ubiquitous presence of SUP straws in the food delivery business. After quitting my job, I established Bambrew in August 2018 to create alternatives to SUP straws. Eventually, I forayed into packaging,” Vaibhav, founder and CEO of Bambrew, tells The Better India.
Vaibhav says the Bengaluru-based green tech sustainable packaging startup is “committed to eradicating the use of SUP”. It utilises natural plant fibers and pulp to “create viable packaging alternatives” to toxic plastic (predominantly SUP) that are both “eco-efficient and sustainable”.
Bambrew prides itself in being a company that targets leading giants that majorly contribute to plastic waste generated worldwide in conventional sectors like e-commerce, retail, FMCG, F&B, pharmaceutical, etc. The company has tie-ups with numerous leading business entities like Amazon, Nykaa, 1MG, Puma, Chumbak, Big Basket, Myntra, Flipkart, Aditya Birla, and Accessorize London. “We are currently generating monthly revenues of around Rs 1.5-2 crore and producing more than 10 million pieces (mailer bags, boxes) per month,” adds Vaibhav.
From small town to sustainable packaging
Born in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, Vaibhav grew up in a typical middle class household. His father, an English professor at a local university, and mother, a social worker, had no background in entrepreneurship. Following high school, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in fashion technology (B.FTech) from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Bangalore.
He began his own business with more than five years of extensive corporate experience. In the beginning, Bambrew began curating a host of eco-friendly packaging products made from bamboo, sugarcane, and seaweed. What’s more, their products used to be 100% handmade and sourced from different tribal communities from across the country.
Despite good intentions, there were always going to be questions about scalability. Today, Bambrew doesn’t source from tribal communities, and instead uses specialised machines to manufacture multiple products in-house and others with different partners.
“The idea of creating an alternative was to make it affordable and scalable, while maintaining quality parameters. Hence, we shifted to a machine setup rather than handmade, as dependency on artisans was very high, and the quality of handmade products was inconsistent. The packaging industry contributes to more than 55% of the plastic waste generated across the globe, which can neither be recycled nor decomposed. Our vision was always to eradicate plastic in a sustainable way. We have more than 174 manufacturing partners along with our own facility, which is capable of producing more than 75 million mailer bags every month. Our combined capacity stands at producing or converting more than 50,000 tons of sustainable alternates, which roughly translates to more than 100 million pieces a month,” he claims.
Bambrew has a 30-member team with people from a variety of domains such as manufacturing, packaging design, and supply chain industries. The company foresees expanding to a workforce of over 100 employees within the next six months, he adds.
But more specifically, what does Bambrew use to manufacture their sustainable packaging materials?
Vaibhav says they use pulp from bamboo and wood that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. FSC is a globally recognised certification system which recognises materials sourced from forests that are “responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally conscious, and economically viable”. It’s like a fair trade certification for materials sourced from forests.
“We are now thinking of using hemp as a raw material as well, since it’s the fastest growing plant apart from bamboo. We work with different mills to manufacture our own raw material in India. However some of our raw materials such as bamboo pulp are imported. Moreover, when our proprietary and indigenously developed method of coating is applied to paper, it gives it plastic-like properties without destroying any of its biodegradability. In other words, we are able to impart the characteristics of plastic onto paper without changing the degradability or recyclability of the paper,” claims Vaibhav.
Funding and looking ahead
Vaibhav says that thus far, Bambrew has raised two rounds of external funding with the latest Pre-Series A round generating funds worth USD 2.35 million. By the end of this financial year, they are looking to partner with 100 major companies from across the country, Vaibhav says.
“Bambrew has managed to reduce more than 10,000 tons of plastic by creating feasible substitutes that are perfect natural replacements for single-use plastic in the B2B and B2C domain. Having overcome several challenges on our way till now, we intend to spread the organisation’s business footprint across numerous Indian cities and international markets in the future, and become the world’s first and largest eco-friendliest organisation,” claims Vaibhav.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)