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Eat with it and eat it too

Hyderabad: Narayana Peesapaty, a former researcher with Icrisat, has seen many jowar farmers shifting to paddy cultivation. The shift, his academic pursuit told him, were putting pressure on water resources. From the farmers’ point of view, they had no option but to shift to paddy mainly due to falling patronage to jowar as well as other millet crops.

Later, he saw a crisis in the making with the increased use of disposable spoons and plates. They were cheap and easily available. As a result, the plastic waste generated increased manifold in a very short time.

Peesapaty began thinking of ways to address these twin problems. He soon came up with an answer- edible spoon. The spoon, made using a blend of millets, increases their consumption and creates a market for them. Second, it is an alternative to plastic spoons.

Peesapaty ventured into making edible spoons around 2015 after giving up his job at Icrisat through the venture Bakeys. “The first few years went on perfecting the idea. We wanted to improve upon the `khagra’, given to eat bhel puri. We used many combinations of millet flour for strength as well taste in the search of the right product,” says Pradnya Keskar about her husband’s efforts to save water and cut pollution.

“It was a difficult life from 2006 for close to a decade till 2016. We have pumped all our savings and have sold two houses to fund for our project,” recollects Keskar, who is now taking care of the accounting side of the business. She is the director there. She was working and that helped in meeting the household expenses.

“Many times we wanted to give up. There was no encouragement for us, no awareness about the product and no patronage,” she tells about the hard times. “Our daughter would see us toil for many days and wonder why people are not buying.”

The couple tried to get loans from formal banking channels. “The banks could not understand our project. They did not have any previous case study to rely on. We did everything to make them understand the potential of edible spoons and also the need. With no financial assistance coming our way, we mortgaged our house to raise about Rs 70 lakh. It is still under mortgage. With no big financial success, we turned defaulters,” recollects Keskar.

According to her, being identified as a defaulter is a tough thing to happen for an entrepreneur. “With bank notices stuck to walls, there was virtually no funding channel available,” she says.

But things did turn for better. “There was a video made on our project highlighting the good it does to environment and to the farming by the Betterindia.com. That video went viral. Suddenly, there were calls, messages, e-mails seeking to buy our spoons. That gave a new lease of life to the business,” recollects Keskar. That video and other videos made on the same lines are quite popular on YouTube now.

“We have got a few overseas orders. However, we burnt fingers due to the high courier costs. We spend about Rs 20,000 to send a parcel to an overseas destination. We din’t realise that it will be this costly. The order was for a few hundred units,” says Keskar.

Later, it adopted a reseller-route to sell products overseas. Here, the reseller gets all the necessary permission to import the spoons. Retailers buy from resellers. Now, it has resellers in the US, UK, Bulgaria, Singapore, Australia and Dubai. “We have got mails from about 50 schools in the US willing to replace plastic spoons with edible cutlery,” she says.

Since 2016, Peesapaty is, a regular at startup and peer interaction meets, has worked on automatising the edible spoon making.

He has chemistry and management education backgrounds but not engineering. “He is not an engineer but still he designed the machine to speed up the making. This is now helping us accept more orders,” she says.

The venture needs Rs 10 lakh investment to automatising each spoon shape,” says Keskar adding that the company plans to make chop sticks, katori, forks, soup spoons and smaller spoons for chat items and desserts. It now has the factory at LB Nagar.

There are some willing to invest. “We have nurtured the idea. We will look for partnerships that will add value,” says Peesapaty, the founder and managing diretor of the edible cutlery firm.

Unused, the spoons can stay for two years. But on use, it has be consumed or be discarded in mud to be decomposed in about five days, he says. The counter on the portal-Bakeys puts the count at more than 2.03 million views.

The post Eat with it and eat it too appeared first on Telangana Today.

This post was syndicated from Telangana Today. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

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