CHENNAI: Mohitha Kalingarayar holds a stack of bowls in different shades of brown. When you look at it closely, touch and feel, it is hard to believe that they are nothing but coconut shells. The 30-year-old Pollachi native along with her 57-year-old mother Pramodhini Kalingarayar, upcycle waste shells to natural, sustainable and biodegradable bowls and planters, promoting sustainable living.
Pollachi is a town known for coconut trades. Mohitha’s family also owns coconut farms. “We are the ninth generation agriculture family. I had a fascination towards agriculture from childhood. When I came back to town after completing my school and college, I began researching about agriculture. We own around 32 acres of coconut farm that surrounds our house. I noticed that a large number of coconut fibres and shells went to waste. I wanted to reuse them,” says Mohitha.
She researched about the lifestyle of our forefathers and noted that it was a nature-friendly one. With the ban on plastic and people looking for eco-friendly options, Mohitha decided to come up with Soodii in September last year, and brought her mother on board. She reopened Pramodhini’s coir mill — which she used to run but shut it down ten years ago owing to health reasons — and made use of the unused machinery. “My mother taught me to use the machines and helped me connect with local farmers,” she says.
It took around six months for Mohitha to learn the ropes of making ropes from coconut fibre. She also visited local farmers and bamboo weavers to learn traditional techniques to make bamboo baskets. She requested them to use the same weaving techniques and make baskets out of coconut fibres.
Through Soodii — which means coconut fibre — Mohitha began selling fibre coasters, utility baskets and multi-purpose mats. “After making products with coconut fibre, I shifted my focus on shells, which were available in my farm aplenty. I thought of making bowls with shells. I cleaned the shell, scraped it, polished it using coconut oil,” she says.
This is when Pramodhini decided to promote Mohitha’s products through her venture, The Thotam, where she offers farm-like experience to tourists. As she also cooks food for them, Pramodhini decided to serve them homemade delicacies in these bowls. “Coconut bowls are good alternatives for serving food. I shared the idea with a few friends who decided to collaborate with us to purchase coconut bowls for serving food,” says Pramodhini.
The size of the bowl depends on the size of the coconut. “The jumbo bowl is the biggest bowl which is made from seer thengai, which are rare. We have four trees of this variety in my grandparents’ farm at Sethumadai, Pollachi. The large bowls are made from yaazh paanam thengai, which is procured from our farm and from the local farmers in Pollachi. I also make small- and medium-sized bowls, spoons, planters, pen stand, cardholders and bird feeds,” shares Mohitha.
Apart from promoting her products, Pramodhini also helps Mohitha with production and delivery. “These products are reusable and durable. If a customer feels that the bowl is tarnished, it can be polished with coconut oil which is harmless,” says Mohitha.
Pramodhini is a proud mother, and cannot stop gushing about her daughter’s innovative ideas. “We bounce ideas off each other and come up with ideas together. Our relationship gets a new dimension every day,” she says. The duo is working on Diwali hampers with Mohitha’s innovative products and traditional podis and pickles by Pramodhini, which can be customised.
The products range from Rs 50 to Rs 350. You can place your orders only through their Instagram page: __soodii__
For details, call: 8883800882
Reusable & durable
Apart from promoting her products, Pramodhini also helps Mohitha with production and delivery. “These products are reusable and durable. If a customer feels that the bowl is tarnished, it can be polished with coconut oil,” says Mohitha.