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‘Our Startup Won Rs 50 Lakh on Shark Tank’: A Mom & Daughter-In-Law’s Dream Come True

Chetna and Surabhi Shah, co-founders of Carragreen.

Surabhi and Chetna Shah’s eco-friendly packaging business Carragreen won funding on Shark Tank India last year. They explain how their sustainable packaging solutions are making a difference.

Growing up in a business family in Nagpur, Surabhi Shah had always understood the nuances of handling a business. So in 2018, when she began her own venture, entrepreneurship came easy to her. 

Her venture Carragreen, she says, is one with a difference. It focusses on biodegradable stationery and packaging solutions.

“I always wanted to start a product-based business through which people can benefit on a daily basis. I focussed on making stationery that is biodegradable to help people switch to a sustainable lifestyle,” Surabhi tells The Better India.

After a year, her mother-in-law Chetna, also an experienced entrepreneur, joined Surabhi in her business journey.

In December 2021, the duo took Carragreen to Shark Tank India. For their work, they won a deal of Rs 50 lakh for 20% equity in the company.

A sustainable spin on mundane packaging 

Though Surabhi dreamt of starting a business of her own, she waited for the right time to take the leap, she says. After completing her engineering degree in information technology, she worked for a multinational company for about two years. Later, she joined her family business to gain a practical understanding of the vocation.

Surabhi and Chetna Shah, co-founders of Carragreen.
Surabhi and Chetna Shah, co-founders of Carragreen.

“My family is into the printing and packaging business. While working there, I realised that a lot of paper gets wasted in factories. That’s when I felt the need to start something sustainable that could add more value and help people on a day-to-day basis,” says the 32-year-old.

Though she wanted her products to be eco-friendly, she says that it took her a while to develop a business plan from a basic idea. 

“After a lot of brainstorming and filtering ideas, I zeroed in on biodegradable stationery products. It was also the time when there was a shift in demands, where people started looking for more eco-friendly products at reasonable rates. So, I decided to bring such products to cater to their needs,” says Surabhi, adding that her startup is incubated in IIM-Bengaluru.

After marriage in 2016, she moved to Indore. She says that though the idea for the business was conceived in 2016, it took her around two years to launch the venture. She launched Carragreen with a range of biodegradable pens, pencils, seed paper, seed paper diaries, visiting cards, monthly calendars, etc.

Biodegradable pencils and pen by Carragreen.
Biodegradable pencils and pen by Carragreen.

She says, “I am married into a business family and my mother-in-law has great expertise in the bakery business. Moreover, I feel it’s always good to have support from your family for balance. Her expertise and networking skills have helped our business grow immensely. Now she manages the customers, human resources, and designing, and I am in charge of manufacturing and marketing,” she adds.

Surabhi says that in 2019, she felt tight competition in the industry when a lot of brands were coming up with similar ideas of offering biodegradable stationery products. 

“Many of these were even imported to India from countries like China. So the products became very common and the scope of scalability had reduced. That was when we started brainstorming on introducing unique products,” says Surabhi, who soon came up with the idea of introducing innovative and eco-friendly food packaging solutions.

Carraboxes and Carraspoons by Carragreen.
Carraboxes and Carraspoons by Carragreen.

Carragreen introduced ‘carraspoons’ and ‘carraboxes’, which are reusable and biodegradable. The products stood out for their innovative design and soon turned out to be their best-selling products.

“The carraspoons and carraboxes are made of reused cardboard. The carraboxes are designed in a way that they can be converted into plates and spoons as well. The spoons are also sold separately,” explains Surabhi, adding that designs are patented.

The Shark Tank experience

According to Surabhi, entering Shark Tank was a life-changing experience for both her as well as her mother-in-law. “We used to watch the US edition and were excited when they announced an Indian edition for the show. We applied without a second thought. We were lucky to have been selected from over 60,000 contestants. It was a ‘dream come true’ moment for us,” says Surabhi, who had invested Rs 6.5 lakh from the grant received from IIM Bengaluru.

The duo asked Rs 50 lakh for 10 per cent equity in the show and received Rs 50 lakh for 20% equity in the company from sharks Peyush Bansal and Anupam Mittal.

Chetna and Surabhi Shah in the first edition of Shark Tank India.
Chetna and Surabhi Shah in the first edition of Shark Tank India.

“There was a lot of learning and we were able to create a good network of people who could guide us. The exposure we received through the show was immense and it really did boost our confidence as entrepreneurs,” she says. “We are planning to use the funding efficiently in production, manufacturing, and marketing.”

Carragreen currently focuses on a B2B model of business and has a strong customer base. “We have a lot of FMCG clients including prominent brands like Haldirams and Balaji foods. We also have a good customer base for our stationery products,” says Surabhi, who plans to expand her venture by introducing reusable packaging for more consumer products.

Edited by Divya Sethu