Blessing in bamboo

Vinaya Patil
Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Yogesh Shinde, founder of Bamboo India, talks about how the idea of making bamboo products took shape and why that is the way forward in a world wrought with environmental degradation

Prosperity is rarely about technology, but about putting knowledge to the right use, learnt Yogesh Shinde, a Pune-based social entrepreneur during his stay in Europe, mostly in Germany. Founder of the Bamboo India, Shinde was a “typical IT person” for a decade and half in the industry. “From KG to PG — I have been born and brought up in Pune and have climbed the IT ladder like any other IT guy. As part of work, I was sent to Europe where I travelled a lot,” says Shinde.

In Germany, his landlord was a farmer and a very rich one. “His luxurious life was not thanks to advanced technology, but because that country uses its resources smartly. Barley is produced in large quantities here, so the farmers are strengthened to produce this crop; likewise grape seeds in France,” he explains, adding that around the same time, a farmer suicide among his acquaintances back home shook him deeply.

“All of this got me thinking. Why can’t we do this in India? I researched about this for days and realised that India is the second largest producer of bamboo. We have 136 different species of bamboo across India. But if you ask anyone what are the things that can be made with bamboo sticks, you will mostly get three to four names. I can now name at least 20 immediately,” says Shinde, who wears a bamboo-made watch and his office has a bamboo keyboard, a bamboo pen stand, and much more.

Shinde also figured that our culture is closely associated with the bamboo. “In Maharashtra, we hoist our gudhi on a bamboo stick on our New Year’s day and also carry a dead person for his last rites on a bed made of bamboo. So literally, our journey is marked by this plant. Then why not use it effectively for livelihood and a respectable life?” he exclaims.

Shinde soon began work on the idea and thought of coming up with products that could replace plastic and encourage bamboo production among the farmers. Once he began working on this idea though, Shinde realised that for the products to do business, they will have to be attractive. “Plastic toothbrushes are the second largest contributors among plastic waste and take forever to decompose. In India alone, 20 crore toothbrushes are discarded every month,” he says, explaining why he came up with a bamboo toothbrush. But along with the rise of these products, the mindset too must change.

When Shinde started off, he could hardly sell a few products a week through his portal Bamboo India. “We have now sold over 2 lakh bamboo toothbrushes in year and a half,” informs Shinde, who started Bamboo India, an online bamboo products portal, in 2016. He now works with a core team of 20 people and ties up with several governments and bamboo producers’ groups across India. He sources his raw material directly from the farmers. Through such initiatives, Shinde aims to empower the farming community of India, while contributing to the environmental cause. This is crucial in the wake of the recent plastic ban imposed by Maharashtra government and the looming environmental danger we are all facing.

“We have recently adopted a village named Hirdosi in Bhor taluka of Pune district. Around 25 people from the village will be employed in this venture where they will be involved from farming to making the products. Only the finishing will happen in Pune,” says Shinde, who has recently also tied up with Club Mahindra resorts where his product — a bamboo speaker — is displayed as souvenir.

“There is no rocket science behind this product. It’s basic physics,” Shinde says about these speakers which do not use electricity or any other source of energy to amplify sound and are part of the array of bamboo products that the portal offers — toothbrushes, combs, straws, notepads and more.
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