Eat with It and Then Eat It – Now Edible Cutlery!

When Narayana Peesapati became aware of the harmful effects of plastic, not only to the environment but also to our health when used as cutlery, he was stunned. But he did not stop there. He came up with a solution that most of us wouldn’t have thought of, and actually made it happen!

Whenever I travelled, I used to feel terribly guilty about using plastic cutlery because it created so much plastic waste. Why couldn’t we create an alternative?” asks 48-year-old Narayana Peesapati, the founder and Managing Director of Bakey’s Food Private Limited. Today, he has found a way to replace plastic cutlery with edible cutlery.

Ok, so plastic is bad for the environment. Everyone knows that. But what’s wrong with not washing plastic cutlery and putting it in one’s mouth? Narayana says it is because we “abuse and misuse plastic; plastic should not be applied to food.” He has said as much in this talk, where he gives many reasons as to why plastic, especially cutlery, should be taken out of our lives. Some of these reasons have to do with the manufacturing process for plastic cutlery (explained further down) and others with hygiene.

So does he have an alternative then? He does, and Narayana has been developing it since 2010. Bakey’s manufactures edible cutlery, including spoons in different shapes and chopsticks.

Edible spoons
Edible spoons

Bakey’s edible cutlery is made from a mix of jowar (sorghum), rice and wheat flour. The spoons and chopsticks do not get soggy if placed in water and food. They only soften after some time (10-15 minutes), and thus can be eaten easily at the end of the meal. Even if discarded, they decompose within five to six days, if not eaten by insects or rodents.

The idea about how to make the cutlery struck Narayana during a flight from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad, when he saw a passenger using a piece of Gujarati khakra as a spoon to eat dessert.

Why is plastic bad for your health?

Narayana Peesapaty at a Bakey's stall.
Narayana Peesapaty at a Bakey’s stall.

Plastic consists of many chemical components which are toxic and carcinogenic, and can leech into food. Narayana, who has been to several manufacturing units of plastic cutlery in the country, has observed that the way in which it is manufactured is not very safe for use with food.

n this very competitive market, he says, hygiene has become the first casualty of cost cutting. The process of cleaning the cutlery by manufacturing units in India that he visited, involved just a rag of cloth being used to wipe the final products that came out of the mould in which molten plastic was injected.

A thought even scarier than this struck Narayana when he noticed that in spite of such a huge consumption of plastic spoons, they are nowhere to be seen in the same numbers after disposal. This, he found, was because they were being reused, which makes plastic cutlery a source of bacterial contamination as well.

Why edible cutlery could be good for you

The spoons do not get soggy in food.
The spoons do not get soggy in food.

Prior to becoming a manufacturer of edible cutlery, Narayana was a researcher at the International Crop Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad. Here, he undertook research on groundwater management, studying why groundwater levels were reducing. He concluded that producing less rice and more dryland crops like jowar would help stabilize the levels of groundwater. It was soon after this that he started thinking about creating a huge market for jowar, and this is one of the main reasons why jowar is the chief ingredients in edible cutlery.

With the product being widely acclaimed, Narayana has been able to communicate the ill effects of plastic to a wide audience.

Bakey’s cutlery has made a mark in the international market as well, with orders coming in from the US and UK.

Edible chopsticks
Edible chopsticks

Being a new concept, working on the idea was a challenge initially, as there was no established technology. Everything had to be developed with learning and research. According to this report, it cost Narayana more than Rs. 60 lakhs to develop the prototype machines and moulds and get started (he had to sell two homes he owned to raise the money). But one of the bigger challenges now is to create an awareness about the harmful health effects of plastic. The use of plastic is also a behavioural issue according to Narayana—people accustomed to using plastic products will not find it easy to switch to edible cutlery.

Other than selling the cutlery directly from their website, Bakey’s also sets up stalls at places like organic bazaars and exhibitions. The company is only breaking even as of now and has not started making a profit, says Narayana.

Once it does, he hopes to develop an automatic machine for manufacturing the cutlery.

Edible dessert spoons
Edible dessert spoons

Based out of Hyderabad, the manufacturing unit is an all-women enterprise, which Narayana’s wife, who is currently working as a director in the company, will soon be taking over.

Patanjali is an NGO! Paying Tax? FMCG or Social Entrepreneurship?

What if Baba Ramdev's Patanjali Was Not an NGO And Paid Corporate Tax?

 

New Delhi: Baba Ramdev’s mega fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) firm, Patanjali recently collaborated with e-commerce platforms to expand the reach of its products. The Yoga guru also declared his plan to continue Patanjali as a non-governmental organization (NGO). However, what if Patanjali was a regular company that falls under the ambit of corporate tax?

Corporation tax is a tax levied on the net income of the company. Businesses, both private and public, which are registered in India under the Companies Act 1956, are liable to pay corporate tax currently pegged at 30%. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his last Union Budget talked about lowering corporate income tax to 25% in a span of four years for companies registering annual revenue of Rs 50 crore or less. The announcement is yet to be put in practice.

Founded in 2006, Haridwar-based Patanjali Ayurved clocked an annual revenue of Rs 10,561 crore in the financial year end of March 2017. Revenue registered for the financial year 2015-16 was Rs 5,000 crore and Rs 2,007 for the fiscal before that.

The Centre’s total collected tax revenue in the last financial year was Rs 17,10,000 crore. Had Patanjali been paying corporate tax, government revenues would have been close to 17,13,000, an increase of roughly 0.2 percent coming from a single organisation.

However, tax experts explained that there are exemptions and rebates that firms get from tax authorities on account of income generation source shown.

Further, it will be wrong to assume that Patanjali does not pay any tax at all. The basic difference between an NGO and a regular company is non-levy of corporate income tax because an NGO is not supposed to make profits on account of it being a holding company.

“Patanjali is a holding company. Smaller companies under it pay all the taxes for production of ultimate sale of products. Further, Patanjali also pays all other taxes such as service tax etc.,” explained DK Srivastava, chief economic expert, EY, a consultancy.

The Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna-led FMCG company has products across 50 categories such as pantry staples, groceries, nutrition, skin care and toiletries, with haircare and oral care products being the best sellers.

The NGO has currently partnered with eight e-commerce firms, including Amazon, Flipkart, Paytm Mall, Bigbasket, Netmeds, Grofers and Gurugram-based 1mg.

In addition to being available on the above sites, products will also be sold on Patanjali’s own online marketplace – patanjaliayurved.net.

“At present, Patanjali has an annual production capacity of Rs 50,000 crore,” claimed Baba Ramdev in January 2018.

As claimed by Baba Ramdev during a press conference, Patanjali has created an ecosystem that is capable of settling up to 1 million orders every day. The latest move to launch its own e-commerce operations is reportedly aimed at increasing online sales to around 15% of the company’s total sales.

Now Organic Dresses – Sarees from Pineapple Fibre!

‘Sourcing raw materials is a tough job’

After trying their hand at various eco-friendly fabric materials stained with vegetable dyes, the weavers of Anakaputhur have come out with sarees made out of yarn from pineapple leaves.

The weavers, mostly women, said the raw materials are available in abundance in the neighbouring Kerala, but bringing them here to make an earning is a tough task.

Over the years, weaving had lost its sheen and is now restricted to only to a few families. Some of the families own pit looms to weave dress materials from natural fibres, with some government support.

Great demand

Self-help groups and members of Anakaputhur Jute Weavers Association these days are busy trying to meet the deadline for bulk orders.

According to C. Sekar, president of the association, dresses woven from natural fibres are in great demand in the country and overseas. “Raw fibre is purchased in bulk from growers in Kerala and we have been trying to get it from the northeastern States too. The fibres are cleaned through a strenuous bleaching process. After a very delicate process of removing single strands of the fibre, they are woven into fabrics like any other material,” he explained.

As the fibre has an affinity for colours, attractive designs can be woven, he added.

Self-help groups can be trained and encouraged to take up weaving of natural fibre such as jute and banana, which is quite profitable. The Indian Bank at Anakaputhur had provided assistance to self-help groups in the area, which included nearly a dozen groups involved in weaving jute and banana fibre. The bank was satisfied with the re-payment capacity of the groups and the the finished goods would be sold at exhibitions organised by Central and State agencies promoting handlooms, besides select private firms.

The price of a saree woven using pineapple fibre starts at Rs. 3,000 and it takes a weaver seven to eight days to make one. “If more support in the form of additional funding is offered, the weavers would thrive to earn a decent living,” he said.