The need of eco-friendly products has never been so important than today when plastic has already choked our cities, oceans, and mountains. This year on World Environment Day, the entire world took a pledge to ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ to combat one of the great environmental challenges that our generation is facing. Continuing the resolution, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh states banned the use of plastics in July while Odisha government has planned to implement the rule from October month. This comprehensive plastic ban also includes disposable cups and plates, cutlery, and packaging. Hence, the products made of natural resources like leaf, coconut, and wood have caught the attention of everyone these days.
Plastic waste has become a major concern in urban areas and people now are looking for options to replace the plastic cutlery with recyclable products. This rising demand of eco-friendly products has created entrepreneurship opportunities for people in rural and semi-urban areas. To boost small enterprises, many corporates and NGOs are also providing technology and skill development programs that help people in their entrepreneurial journey and build a community of rural entrepreneurs. New Delhi based NGO, ‘Dhriiti – The Courage Within’ is working towards its mission of transforming communities by developing entrepreneurial skills in people from diverse socio economic backgrounds.
Dhriiti works with entrepreneurs who identify and convert opportunity into sustainable enterprises to enhance the quality of livelihood. The organization nurtures, incubates, and support potential entrepreneurs through its innovative and professional approach. It endeavors to promote entrepreneurship in different forms and build a spirit of entrepreneurship amongst the communities. With its ‘Financial, Social, Ecological (FSE)’ concept, Dhriiti works with aspiring entrepreneurs who can build transformative enterprises to protect the environment and bring a positive change in the society.
The organization understands that rural areas have great potential but people face challenges like limited access to finance, gaps in skills, unfavorable business environment; low financial sustainability, and lack of planning. Dhriiti team aims to meet such challenges and promote small industries by applying modern management and technology tools. The organization is running various skill development and entrepreneurship projects with support from corporates and state governments. As a part of its endeavor for North East India, it has been working on ‘Arecanut Leaf Plate Manufacturing Cluster Development Project’ in Assam.
More than 500 micro enterprise units have been set up under this project to make disposable plates and bowls from the sheath of arecanut trees. Till date, the project has trained more than 5000 people and has engaged 7000 families in North East India. The enterprise has created a positive impact on region’s employability percentage as each unit provides employment to more than 20 rural youths. ‘Tamul Plate Marketing Pvt. Ltd. (TPMPL)’, an institution created under this initiative manages the whole operations in a commercially sustainable manner.
Today, TPMPL markets the high quality products at national and international level under the brand name, Arecana. The project has been the most successful program wherein Dhriiti nurtured the entire project for 10 years and handed over operations to the producers’ institution. Going forward, the program has a vision to build a micro enterprise value chain worth INR 100 crores in North East by 2020.
Additionally, to further push the growth of eco-friendly industries, Dhriiti is working on its ‘Sal and Siali Leaf Plate Cluster Development’ project supported by Odisha Forestry Sector Development Project (OFSDP), Government of Odisha. The project is aimed towards the development of innovative product designs for high end urban areas as well as the international market. The project aims to become a people’s institution in next five years boosting the Sal and Siali leaf plate manufacturing in the state. Dhriiti team will be working with Sal leaf plate producers in two blocks of Keonjhar and Rourkela. The project will be amplified further as a full cluster development program in partnership with various public and private bodies.
Needless to say that making eco-friendly product from leaf and other natural sources not only supports the underprivileged community but also helps in saving environment and reducing wastage. As the plastic is badly affecting our health and surroundings, the use of eco-friendly products has become more like a necessity than a choice. By adopting sustainable habits and promoting eco-entrepreneurship, we can surely give a gift of health and happiness to our next generation.
The Controller of Patents, Designs and Trademarks through a public notice dated November 19, 2015 brought to the notice of the public the draft of the Trademarks Amendment Rules, 2015 proposing to amend the Trademark Rules, 2002 and had invited comments from the public and stakeholders within 30 days from the date the notification published in the official gazette of India. At last, the Trademarks Rules, 2017 came into effect on March 06, 2017 with several changes ranging from increase in official fees, discount for online filing of trademark applications, hearing through video conferencing, maintaining a list for well-known trademarks among other things.
While this post will cover only the amendments with respect to startups and small enterprises (SME’s) you may also check out posts from my colleagues in respect of the journey of the trademark office from paper filing to digital, practical aspects of the online trademark filing system, increase in the official fees to an extent of 125% and changes in the rules in general and the reduction of the number of the trademark forms.
The new rules offer 50% discount on the official fees for startups and SME’s (small and medium enterprises) with respect to filing an application for registration of a trademark and for expedited processing of an application for registration of a trademark. Filing an application for registration of a trademark is Rs. 5000 (Paper Filing) / Rs. 4500 (e-filing and expedited processing of an application for registration of a trademark is Rs. 20000 (e-filing only)
The applicant should be recognized as a startup by the competent authority under the Startup India initiative. To qualify as a small enterprise, the applicant’s investment in plants and machinery alone should not exceed ten crore rupees if the applicant is a manufacturer. However, if the applicant is a service provider, the investment in equipment in general should not exceed five crore rupees.
Unlike the Indian Patent Amendment Rules, 2016 where the applicant being a startup/individual/SME enjoys discounted costs for the entire life of a patent application and even subsequently thereafter, in respect of renewal of the patent, the Trademark Rules, 2017 has limited the discounts with regard to Startups/Individuals/SME’s only filing and expedited examination of the trademark application.
The other amendment that startups might find useful is the ability to request amendment of the specification of goods and services in the event of them being wrongly classified at the time of filing the application. On several occasions, entrepreneurs and applicants file applications on their own or using a low-cost filing service provider which may not have an experienced lawyer to classify the specifications of goods and services. When the trademark office raises objections on erroneous classification, the only option earlier was to file a fresh application or delete the specifications objected by the examiner. However, the amendment now provides for splitting the classification and adding new classes to the present application. This will save the applicant from losing time and priority by filing a new trademark application.
Original content of the above blog can be read at: https://selvams.com/blog/trade-marks-rules-2017-means-startups-smes/
It isn’t hard to find examples of antagonism between educational qualifications and one’s dream in life. What makes entrepreneurs different is that they face this mismatch with courage and take a less travelled path.
Vinod Lal Heera Eshwer, the man behind the green mass movement, and a polymer engineer by training, explains, “Although, I graduated with a distinction, I swore never to use any of my knowledge to produce any more of the hazardous stuff. I always dreamed of finding a way of recycling plastic to clear the whole plastic mess. But destiny decided I was better off as an advertising copywriter. So I joined the Advertising industry.
Nine years later I found myself as a creative director with the lingering urge to do something about the plastic mess. So I created a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of using plastic bags. This campaign was spread across the internet, outdoor, posters and print. However, it wouldn’t have seen the light of day if not for the support of my colleague Ramesh who art-directed the entire campaign, Dipen Sagar, a tech genius who created the website, Senthil, a photographer who shot the campaign images, Vimalkirti Deshmukh and Priya, two art directors who did the groundwork. Needless to say, all their services were rendered free of cost and voluntarily. My involvement was that I authored the campaign and was persistent enough to get everybody to make this happen!”
The Journey so far
The main idea was to raise awareness among people who were completely unaware of ‘the blood they were getting on their hands every time they accepted plastic bags for convenience’. He adds, “We wanted them to pause and think. We wanted them to consider making the journey from plastic to fabric. When the campaign went live, we had no idea how many people would actually care enough to let go of the ‘convenience’ of walking into a shop empty handed and walking out with their stuff in plastic bags. Although, the results were slow, the message had many takers. The site tracker shows that people from across the globe visited the website and continue to do so. The traffic to the website is so high that Google offers the word “lessplasticmorelife” as a suggested keyword. We consider this a huge milestone in our journey to raise awareness.”
Vinod’s work has aroused curiosities among many who sent him queries on how to make the plastic to fabric shift quicker and cheaper, how to involve NGOs in the production of cloth bags, etc. “The press have been most generous towards this initiative and have provided us with media coverage. Obviously, for a cause like this that’s most often conveniently brushed under the carpet, it is most welcome as it helps spread the word.” He smiles and quickly adds a ‘thank you in advance to Dhriiti.
Message to the youth for setting up any green business/social enterprise
“If we wish to truly reach out and make a change, we need to first be that change. Be clear about what you want and why you are doing whatever you’ve chosen.
The second quality is the resilience to face naysayers, critics and pessimists who’ll keep telling you that it’s not worth it. Ignore them. Walk to the beat of the drummer in your own heart. And keep walking. You are bound to succeed.
Another thing I’ve learned from creating communication for lessplasticmorelife, waterforfree.org and treesforfree is that we have to resist the urge to come across as being” holier than thou”. We have to stop sounding preachy. If we wish to make a change we need to connect with the masses in their own lingo but not necessarily on their terms. We have to package our message in a contemporary manner. We have to sound like a friend.
Next, don’t get drowned by information overload. The solutions to the most complex issues are always simple. So learn to identify the simple answers.
Don’t think too much! If you keep second guessing what others will think and so on, you’ll never get around to doing anything.
About the author: Unnati Narang is a graduate from SRCC and a serial entrepreneur. She is the co-founder of www.serenewoods.com and 440 Hertz
Ever wondered how and where, one of the most essential cleaning equipment in all Indian households, the broomstick, is made? These were a few questions that intrigued me to discover an entrepreneurial potential in Meghalaya in the North-east of India. And at once I decided to travel to the picturesque state with vast expanse of broom grass plantations.
Meghalaya is home to a population of 2,306,069 inhabitants (census 2001) with about 5780 villages. The people in Meghalaya find their source of livelihood in agriculture and allied activities. The broom plant is a major forest-based resource for the farmers here and is distributed widely throughout the state of Meghalaya. It is commonly found on the hills, damp steep banks along ravines and on sandy banks of the rivers.
Set in a hilly landscape, Meghalaya is divided into 7 districts – East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills, South Garo Hills, Ri Bhoi, and Jaintia Hills. The biggest advantage for the farmers in Meghalaya is the cultivation of broom-grass which is easy and requires less financial investment.
The broom grass can be grown even on marginal lands, wastelands and jhum fallow. Its cultivation can promote the sustainable use of fragile and degraded lands. It grows well on a wide range of soils varying from sandy loam to clay loam. The planting can be done by seeds or rhizomes. Some people also collect and transplant the wild seedlings for propagation. However, it is considered better to get quality seedlings from reputed nurseries.
The culms arise centrifugally during the peak growing season (April to July) and bear inflorescence (panicle) on shoot apex at the end of vegetative growth. The inflorescence that is about 30 to 90 cm long resembles a fox-tail and is used as broom. And this is sold as broomsticks!
Trade & retail
However, more than the botanical bit, what I really wanted to know was how the brooms ultimately reach its users. Do traders go to Meghalaya and buy it from farmers? What is the mechanism involved? How is the pricing done? With the rest of the economy, has this industry also grown by leaps and bounds? What is the life of people involved in this trade like? Is there an entrepreneurial spirit within them that constantly pushes them towards the better?
I got in touch with Bhaskar who runs ‘The Bhaskar Broom Company – Bamfoi’, about 50 km away from Guwahati. “Our Company collects brooms and takes them to Guwahati. There we sell them to the traders. After that it is those traders who supply it to the end users.” He also mentioned how the market for brooms is largely confined to northern India, mostly cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.
Broom grass grown in the hills is made available to traders in a nursery at Karbi Anglong district of Assam, which are sent to Guwahati by small companies. Usually traders purchase the produce only between February-April. A bundle of 1 kilogram of broomsticks contains about 3-4 sticks and costs Rs.20-22. In the off season, the same is sold for Rs.30-40. To the small and marginalized farmers broom cultivation is an economic activity that sustains their seasonal livelihoods.
Marketing broom grass is easy since Meghalaya offers a vast linkage of all the villages to the wider regional or national market through their local market. In the months of December, January and February these local markets are flooded with broom sticks and the middlemen are the potential buyers. Earlier there used to be no fixed price and it was dependent completely on the price quoted by the middlemen. Now that the market has developed, a stronger framework is used.
“We take the grass from here and get them tied into brooms in Shillong. After that they go to households all over the country” says, a trader. Thus, value-addition of binding tufts of broomstick into an easily usable broom for sweeping floors and dusting ceilings, etc happens elsewhere.
Leading to national growth
Activities such as cultivation of broom grass on a large scale, if promoted not only help in regional development and providing employment but also contribute to the national growth on the whole. Although the cultivation of Thysanolaena maxima (broom grass) is largely unorganized, it grows in the wild on the hillsides, traders confidently make the sweeping statement that Meghalaya is easily the jharu capital of India. Agrees P.S. Nongbri, a Shillong-based forest officer who had prepared a report in 1995 on broomstick production and how it could be improved.
Mizoram Forest Produce Marketing Agency (MIFMA) purchases broomsticks at Vairengte on the Mizoram-Assam border are in turn sold to Shree Shyam Trading Company, New Delhi and the North East Regional Marketing Corporation, Govt. of India Enterprise, Guwahati.
According to MIFMA, Rs.3 crores have already been used to purchase these broomsticks and some families have received incomes of up to Rs.3 lakhs from their sales.
Apart from the MIFMA, the major change that took place happened after the Meghalaya Forest Department took these brooms to international trade fairs – a trade fair in Delhi in 1994 received an overwhelming response! Country-wide enquiries came along and by the following year, the price of a quintal of broom grass shot up from Rs.1,100-Rs.3,000. Even though the middlemen take a huge part of this revenue, they get about 60% of the price even which fetches the average household Rs.6,000-Rs.7,000 a year as additional income. The Meghalaya government decided to promote the plantation of broom grass in 1995. The scheme, from all accounts, has met with great success.
Efforts from NABARD
Even on the banking and finance front, there have been commendable efforts. For instance, The National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD), the Apex level National Bank in the field of Agriculture & Rural Development established on 12 July 1982 announced some favourable policy initiatives for the North-East India especially Mizoram.
It went one step further with its SHG (Self-help group) linkage programme which involves linking such groups to the formal banking system by sanctioning Rs.10.90 lakh to NGOs and banks for promotion and credit linking of more number of SHGs in the days to come. 9 Farmers Clubs have so far been formed and assisted with active participation of NGOs and bankers in the State. Further, grant assistance aggregating to Rs.8.81 lakh was provided to various NGOs for conduct of 15 Skill Development Programmes in various activities. These included broom processing and broom-making in addition to other trades like candle-making, tailoring, jam & pickle making, jute & handicraft, bamboo basket weaving, etc. These programmes have benefited 393 participants to provide self-employment.
The farmers of the North-east, the traders and the middlemen are part of an industry that poses a huge business opportunity. It continues to define the lives of a large segment of India, as they learn to recognize its benefits not only for themselves and their customers, but for the environment as well.
In India, the early bamboo architecture laid the foundation of the dome-shaped Mughal constructions including the Taj Mahal. Recently, India has seen a swelling demand for use of bamboo in the construction industry, leading to better economic conditions especially in the rural areas. Also the dynamics of supply chain management would see a change with increasing opportunities for small players and start-ups.
Increasing Business Opportunities for Entrepreneurs
The paper and pulp industry consumes 35% of the bamboo grown in India followed by housing at 20%. The National Mission on Bamboo Technology and Trade Development has assessed the demand for its various applications as 27 million tonnes against the availability of 13.47 million tonnes. The size of existing bamboo economy is estimated as Rs.2043 Cr. as against the market potential of Rs.4463 Cr. The projected annual average growth rate of 15-20% it is expected to reach Rs.26000 Cr by 2015.
Entrepreneurs must exploit this opportunity and use this natural resource to meet the increasing need for housing and growing pressure on land.
Bamboo could substitute as the main load bearing element in construction
Field visits to the rural areas of Jharkhand reveal that Bamboo is primarily used as load distributors on roofs with timber as the main load bearing element. Due to the long gestation period of trees and growing concern for deforestation, availability of timber poses a threat. With the spurring of construction activities in the rural areas under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Indira Awas Yojna and the likes, it is imperative that entrepreneurs at the grass-root level look into local materials to sustain such activities. Hence there is a need to investigate if bamboo could substitute as the main load bearing element.
Land degradation & acute shortage of bricks
Our interaction with Jharkhand Education Project Council (JEPC) officials also revealed that there is an acute shortage of bricks in the district of Ranchi itself so much so that the requirements of bricks for construction work under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is becoming increasingly difficult to meet. Against a requirement of 2,79,78,200 bricks in a year, the total availability in the district is 2,76,00,000 bricks. Thus if we take into account the demand for SSA alone the shortfall is to the extent of 378200. One brick requires 0.0204 cubic metres of soil, totalling to a requirement of 570755 cubic metres per year to meet the requirements of SSA alone. This has implications in terms of land degradation too.
Addressing global warming
Growing concern over the impact of increasing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions on world climate has prompted the world community to address this pressing environmental problem, thus the Energy Building Code 2007, was introduced as one of the measures. Bamboo is not only the World’s fastest and the strongest growing woody plant but is also an enduring, versatile and highly renewable resource. Its adaptability to different climatic conditions makes it one of the most important species for mitigation of the climate change. It has been reported that ‘Phylostachys bambusoides’ in Kyoto, Japan, has a carbon sequestration potential of around 2 tonnes per hectare. Agro-forestry has been found to be the most cost effective method of addressing the carbon emission and consequent global warming issues. By going for shorter gestation period species like bamboo, can be used as an effective mitigation option through carbon sequestration.
An eco-friendly housing option
Bamboo construction is also an attractive business area as customers are showing interest in eco-friendly products and the government is also looking for substitutes of timber so that the forest cover is protected. National Mission on Bamboo Applications (NMBA) was set up with a budget outlay of Rs.100 crores in 2004. Its core aim is to promote bamboo based products. Using bamboo for housing purpose is an eco-friendly option. When bamboo is used in houses then the carbon remains locked in the bamboo till the duration of the structure. The lesser the processing, lesser the energy consumption. The use of bamboo parabolic arches as load bearing elements is thus a ‘green’ option for housing, a growing opportunity for green entrepreneurs!
About the author: Smita Chugh is a ‘Doctoral Research Student, Centre for Rural Development and Technology, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi’.
Abhijit and Gaurav, entrepreneurs from premiere institutes – IIM and IIT, are motivated with a cause. Their drive to discover and implement sustainable environment solutions finds its roots in their student years. The promoters have a long background in climate change mitigation programs and campaign. As Gaurav puts it, “I am the founder of Delta Climate – the first campus sustainability program which is an enabling means to convert the IIT campuses sustainable; and Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) – a nationwide youth network of climate change activists. I have had long term interactions with groups like the Clinton Climate Initiative, 350.org and understood the dynamics of the green market. We have realized a lot of spaces where IT can automate processes and make them more efficient.”
ECPS was founded out of a considerable need gap analysis between the currently existing audit and consulting model which lacks in providing complete solutions to the Energy and Carbon needs of a firm.
The focus of ECPS
Abhijit and Gaurav have identified four key focus sectors, which are critical to solving the energy and climate crisis in the coming decade. These are smart motor systems, intelligent logistics, improved building technology and smarter grids. Talking about the enterprise, they add, “ECPS is strategically positioned to serve the market gap unfilled by the conventional consulting model which is unable to serve the non compliance energy and carbon markets, in particular. We believe that technology has the power to complement what consultants and auditors are doing in this market, in a more efficient and cost effective manner. Also, automating solutions gives us a big competitive edge in terms of scalability and customer loyalty over any on-site model.”
Challenges and hurdles
Just like any other enterprise, these young entrepreneurs have faced and overcome various operational and technical hurdles. In their entrepreneurial venture, the duo has consulted many mentors and guides, so as to make the most of their experience and fresh perspective. Abhijit, 23 and Gaurav, 20 confidently talk about their journey so far, “We are a start-up of students, with work experience in varied fields. We have had to work our way out to run ECPS along with our curriculum at IIT’s and IIM. We have to be very efficient in managing time so as to strike a perfect balance between work and the academics and coordinate well with the system. While building our product we have to be specific about providing high quality custom solutions. To overcome these problems, we have always worked as a team, understood the problem at its core and work towards the solutions in a systematic manner.
For operational issues, we have always been helped by the Entrepreneurship Cell, IIT Bombay and the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), IIT Bombay. We have always found our solution by brainstorming and discussion. For technical problems, we always have the luxury to consult our Professors at IIT Bombay and IIM Bangalore. We also are in touch with a network of technical professionals; we work with them on an informal basis.”
USP for the clientele
ECPS offers an out-of-the-box and smart IT solution to fulfill the energy and carbon efficiency needs of the clients. The enterprise mostly has corporate clients who use their software and products on a recurring basis. Gaurav discusses, “ECPS provides solutions which supersede the current offerings in the market. Our USP includes the following:
- Cost cutting potential
- Branding advantages
- Corporate valuation and Investor requirements
- CSR and corporate sustainability
- CDM potential
Our current revenue model of ECPS is based on recurring revenue, based on the services offered to our clients. We operate as a Software-as-a-service (SAAS) model. ECPS would stick to the same revenue model for the next couple of years.”
Message to the youth of India
Gaurav sums up all his lessons and experiments with entrepreneurship quite precisely in his message to the emerging entrepreneurs of India, “I have always believed that one can pursue his/her goals and aspirations with hard and smart work. To all the potential entrepreneurs in India, I would like to say – be sure about what you want to do and how you would do it and once you have made up your mind, hold no bars. The world is yours! It is a very good time to be India – to enable the lives of millions with your enterprise. The future looks very bright to me.”
In an interview with Abhijit and Gaurav, founders of Energy and Climate Productivity Solutions (ECPS), Unnati Narang explores the intricacies of their product based technology firm focused on providing smart IT solutions to the clean technology sector in emerging markets.