Integrating ecology and economy

With her eco-friendly stationery initiative, Velim Eco, Kaydence Rodrigues plans on doing her bit for the environment

Kaydence Rodrigues lives by the motto that one needs to become the change one wants to see in the world. She believes that we live in a world with very little respect for our ecology, over utilisation of our natural resources and lack of understanding on the importance of reuse, recycle and repurpose. She has been inspired to be an entrepreneur from a young age by her parents, and decided to embark on a journey to become a founder of a startup focused on doing her bit to reduce the burden on the environment. She is currently in her first year of Arts with a specialisation in Psychology at the Chowgule College, and balances her time between her studies and entrepreneurial venture. In Kaydence’s first startup enterprise ‘Syamantaka’ they focused on recycling and repurposing, wastepaper through their initiative ‘Velim Eco’ into commodities of economic value. She was inspired by the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals which focuses on meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. A wealth out of waste idea for a school project stirred an interest in Kaydence to pursue the idea of recycling waste paper and repurposing them, which brought up the idea of Velim Eco. “Our family runs a media business and I have had the opportunity to visit printing presses not only in Goa but also Mumbai and Delhi. The value of a newspaper in most homes is a one day read and after that it is thrown away as wastepaper. Seeing the pile of newspaper waste at my home and homes of my relatives, I thought of recycling it and repurposing those newspapers into a new commodity.” Her research before venturing into this startup idea revealed that every year 2.4 billion plastic pens are introduced into the market, out which 91% do not get recycled. Moreover, plastic pens are reportedly the second largest contributor to plastic waste in the world. “Therefore, in discussion with my business advisors, I decided to embark on this entrepreneurial journey in creating eco-friendly products from recycled waste paper. To our good fortune, we found the technology, machinery and also factory space to work on the idea.” Their first effort was the create pencils out of waste newspapers, and their product is now used by the personnel at the Goa Government Secretariat. “After newspapers we decided to extend our scope into recycling and repurposing work to all waste paper and that led to our second product initiative – Velim Eco Pens, which we test-marketed in Goa with our first order to Dhempe College recently and it was greatly appreciated. In May, we plan to have a national roll-out for the product in stationeries’ in Goa, Mumbai and Delhi.” Eco-friendly products made out of recycled waste paper are not a new idea. However, Kaydence and her team realised that while ecofriendly products do exist in the market, they are positioned as novelties and not commodities. “I wanted to create eco-friendly products that can compete in quality and price sensitivities with other products like in the pencil space with Natraj and Apsara and in the pens space with Reynolds. My vision and that of my team is to create awareness among people to encourage the utilisation of more eco-friendly products, both, from an ecological and an economical point of view too. Secondly, I want people to stop using plastic pens as they are disastrous to our environment.” The process to manufacture the eco-pencil begins with the accumulation of the raw material needed to make the eco-pencil. Kaydence explains, “We currently ensure that the newspapers are collected in our village of Velim, from our family and friends. These newspapers are then sent to our current factory space in Bengaluru for processing the waste newspaper into pencils. Our manufacturing team has been trained to take the collected newspapers to a stepby-step process of repurposing and coming out into its final product of a pencil. Around 20 kilos of waste newspapers can make roughly about 30,000 pencils. Right now the production is at a shared space in a factory belonging to a family friend. This year, we plan to open our own factory for our Velim Eco products in Goa. Similarly, for our Velim Eco-Pens collected wastepaper is recycled and repurposed into a pen.” While one Velim EcoPencil costs `9, Kaydence and her team are confident that in the coming year they will be able to offer it at `6 to compete directly with Natraj or Apsara brand of pencils with expected increase in pencil orders. Their Velim Eco-Pens are priced at `12 per pen and they hope that they can offer them at `10 per pen to compete with Reynolds. At this point, their production line is focused on Velim Eco-Pencils made of out of recycled newspapers and Velim Eco-Pens made out of recycled wastepaper. “These two products are our key focus areas for the first 24-months of our operations, since we launched in February 2023. We will be considering other products too at a later stage, as we want to stay focused and have a lean product line,” says Kaydence. Kaydence first strategy was to name her brand Velim Eco after the village of her grandparents and parents in Goa. “I wanted to show the world that eco-friendly quality products can go global from a small village in Goa. Our next strategy was to focus on the usage of pencils instead of plastic pens in schools and offices. Our third strategy was to make Velim EcoPencils and Velim Eco-Pens affordable for the common man. Our fourth strategy was to go beyond stationary shops but focus on corporate clients and governments who are focused on sustainable developed products. Our fifth strategy was to expand into the international markets.” Currently, Velim Eco-Pencils have been exported to Israel, Italy, Sri Lanka, and Dubai and will soon be available in Jamaica too through their international distributor network. Kaydence and her team are also producing Velim Eco-Pencils for the Royal Orchid Group of Hotels for its 83 hotels across India. “We currently supplying Velim EcoPencils to the Goa government and soon will be supply to the Maharashtra and Gujarat governments. We will also be supplying to the Smart Cities offices across India shortly,” adds Kaydence.  When it comes to challenges Kaydence mentions the pricing as a primary roadblock. “EcoFriendly products are mostly seen as novelties because their prices are often higher than regular products such as pencils and pens. The quantum of the quantity decides the price, therefore we decided to focus extensively on institutional sales to garner bulk orders and we have found that because of this strategy we have been able to also bring the retail prices to a competitive level with regular products from Natraj, Apsara and Reynolds. We have managed to ensure that our pencils and pens are within the reach of the common man, who wants to do his or her bit for the environment by purchasing eco-friendly products.” Kaydence says that one must learn to live by the principles of sustainable development and everyone must do their bit in reducing the burden that we all put on our ecology

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