Agripreneur Uses Power of Social Media To Replace 16.5 Lakh Kg Plastic Waste with Bamboo
Pune-based Yogesh Shinde started Bamboo India in 2016 but he credits the success of his unique and sustainable startup to social media apps like Facebook and Instagram.
Bamboo India, run by Yogesh Shinde and his wife Aswini, makes bamboo-based, eco-friendly products, and aims to replace plastic products with bamboo ones. “My only regret is that I didn’t start this venture earlier,” says the 42-year-old who started his business in 2016.
So far, he has replaced plastic waste with 16.5 lakh kg of Bamboo India products.
After completing his Masters from the University of Pune, he joined the IT industry and eventually travelled to Germany for work. It was there that the idea of starting a sustainable business struck him, and he returned to India with the vision of starting something that also made a difference to his country. Digital mediums, and more specifically Facebook and Instagram have played a critical role in transforming his vision into a thriving business today.
This agricultural entrepreneur has since engaged 4,000 farmers from villages of Velhe, near Pune in Maharashtra, to manufacture products such as toothbrushes, speakers, clothing pegs, desk organisers, utility stands and sky lanterns made from bamboo.
While speaking to the farmers in rural Maharashtra, he came across concepts such as zero-budget farming, non-pesticide farming, and the idea of products made from bamboo.
“India is the second-largest bamboo grower in the world and also one of the biggest bamboo importers. This didn’t make sense. It made me think about how we are underutilising our bamboo resources,” he says.
He then dipped into his savings to invest up to INR 15 lakh in his startup. One of his first products was a bamboo acoustic sound amplifier for which he needed a bamboo cross-cutting machine that cost INR 8,500. Today, he says, he has a machine worth INR 2.5 crore.
He also has a few bamboo toothbrush-making machines. “Initially, we imported machines from China, Vietnam, and Taiwan. But those machines were not 100 per cent suitable for Indian bamboo. We started modifying their machines for Indian bamboo and we realised that we had changed the entire machine,” he chuckles. “So now, we make our machines ourselves too and support the ‘Make in India’ initiative.”
Today, Bamboo India has 13 varieties of bamboo toothbrushes — soft, ultra-soft, nano-soft, medium, adult, kids, charcoal bristles or plant-based bristles.
They also make earbuds, combs, tongue cleaners, travel kits, keychains and desktop accessories. “We are going to foray into toys, jewellery, and fabric made from bamboo, which we expect to launch in 2022,” says Yogesh.
The boost to sales and awareness about bamboo products, Yogesh says, is purely credited to social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
One of the early users of Meta’s platforms, Bamboo India started promoting their products on Facebook as early as in 2016. “Social media was the only way we could reach maximum customers with very little investment. We could also target particular audiences,” he asserts.
“We started with small posts and realised the potential of these platforms. That’s when we dived deeper into paid marketing. It helped us a lot with awareness and branding,” he says.
Elaborating on the ease of business on these platforms, he says, “Everything is available at the click of a button. Their dashboard is simple and easy to read. So, you don’t need a dedicated team to work on promotions [of products]. Their dashboard tool is especially handy for startups who are strapped for cash.”
It is because of their social media fame that Yogesh was also invited to conduct a TED talk on bamboo products and has subsequently signed an “MoU with the world’s largest bamboo products manufacturer” who found them on social media.
“We have made it big today because of these social media platforms,” he says, adding, “We started with manufacturing 100 brushes a day and today we manufacture 50,000 brushes a day. We have replaced more than 16.5 lakh kg of plastic waste with bamboo products.”
“During the lockdown, our offline business model went online. Facebook and Instagram aided in accelerating our sales,” he says.
Speaking about his wife’s role in the business he says, “Aswini and I were college friends before we got married. Today, she is actively involved in the human resource management of the organisation. Currently, we have more than 42 employees and more than 70 per cent of the staff in our factory are female thanks to my wife. She also looks after accounts and administrative responsibilities while I take care of new business engagement and products.”
Bamboo India is now looking to add another 1,000 families to completely depend on their products. On his business plans, he says, “We are not looking to build the next Rs 100 crore company. Our major aim is to reduce 1 million kilogram of plastic waste every year from next year onwards.”