Thursday , 19 September 2019
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Marlon and Geetanjali Lobo, founders of Earthytude, Parra, see a prospective market for eco-friendly bags in Goa in view of the crackdown on plastic, discovers Serilda Coutinho

The earthy attitude towards doing business

Goa is blessed with a scenic view but gone are the days when the state was pristine. Heaps of garbage are a common sight today with the state battling river pollution and other environment issues. A plastic ban is in force since October 2018 and tapping the market for a greener alternative to polythene carry bags is Parra based Earthytude, a manufacturer of eco friendly bags and products.

Earthytude is a fledgling company, having started just four months back. The company makes several environment friendly products such as carry bags, garbage bags, jute-grow bags, drinking straws and pencils. Founders are husband and wife duo, Marlon Lobo and Geetanjali Lobo, while Celestine Mascarenhas, partner, takes care of marketing and the distribution.

“Our food ventures, The Goan foodie and Chef’select gave us a head–start in terms of a huge client base most of who wanted eco-friendly products. We received our first bulk order for bio-degradable carry bags from the Magson stores and the Mapusa Municipal Council,” says the husband and wife team. They point out that, currently the company has a client base of supermarkets like Delfinos and AJ’s Superstore along with restaurants like Caravela, Copperleaf, Lazy Goose, Route 66, Fat Panda and Taverna.

“Since we are in the hospitality industry through our existing ventures we felt the need to take a step in the direction of a cleaner Goa,” says Geetanjali.

For manufacturing, the team tied up with several partners. The carry bags and garbage bags are made by a unit in Telangana, while products made out of natural material such as paper pencils, straws, waste wood toothbrushes, etc., are manufactured by several cottage industry units.

“We choose Telangana for manufacturing due to the availability of labor and continuous electricity supply in the state,” says Marlon Lobo. He says that, the company sells around two tons of bio-degradable carry bags per month to B2B customers in Goa. The future target is to increase sales to about 15 tons per month once the distribution network is established. For this, plans are to reach out to local vendors and retailers.

“We have already finalised two distributors for North and South Goa respectively. Through the distributors we will target the main markets of Vasco, Margao, Panjim and Mapusa.”

Coming to the cost of the products, the pricing is competitive. The founders claims that, the price for bio-degradable carry bags is close to the polythene bags and has the advantage of getting more number bags for the per kg due to the light weight of the product. “One kg pack of Earthytude carry bags is priced at Rs 450. It contains around 300 small size bags. We have kept the pricing economical to encourage the switch towards natural material. A box of 10 pencils is for Rs 45, while the straws are wholesaled at Rs1.30 per straw,” they explain.

According to Geetanjali Lobo their carry bags are stronger than the conventional polythene bags. The small size bags can carry weight up to 1.5kg while the bigger ones can carry up to 10 kg of weight which makes it ideal for daily grocery shopping.

Earthytude carry bags were officially launched the day the plastic ban in the state was enforced on the occasion of Our Lady of Milagres feast in Mapusa. The bags are certified under ISO 17088(specifications for disposable plastic) and by the Central Pollution Control Board of India. However the state pollution board authorities have not yet responded to the certification request filed,” claims Lobo.

“Our products are developed after spending more than a year on the research and development. They are compostable, use zero petroleum compound and are animal safe as they are made from plant starch and fortify the soil. To minimize usage of natural resources we came up with the idea to covert waste newspapers into pencils. The newspaper industry anyways is consuming wood for the paper so we felt that a better way to reduce further wastage of the wood was to manufacture newspaper pencils,” say the husband and wife team who feel strongly about the tons of polythene bags used daily by residents.  on a monthly basis.

Geetanjali says, “Plastic bags and drinking straws are the two major pollutants in our country that have entered our water bodies and also degraded the quality of the soil.”

In future, the company plans to manufacture new products such as edible plates and eco-friendly cling wraps. The plan is also to export to Sri Lanka, Oman and Middle East. “At present the bagasse raw material used for making carry bags is sourced from abroad attracting a higher GST. In future we plan to source the raw material locally to reduce the cost of production by about 30 percent. It will make the carry bags cheaper so that it is more affordable to locals,” says Geetanjali Lobo.

She adds that, a major challenge in popularizing environment friendly bags is lack of raids by local authorities to curb the illegal sale of plastics. The fines are taken lightly by plastic bag suppliers. According to the founders of Earthytude, it is essential to make market vendors aware of the damage caused by plastic bags and switch to eco-friendly alternatives as vendors are the highest consumers of polythene bags along with the hospitality industry.

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