THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At a time when the state government has prohibited the use of single-use plastic products in the state, two young entrepreneurs from the state capital have developed a unique sustainable alternative to plastic and paper straws – papaya straw. Fariq Noushad and Previn Jacob Varghese have developed the straws from the stems of the papaya plant.
The 26-year-old natives of Manacaud (Fariq) and Peroorkada (Previn) in the city were second runner up at the TATA Social Enterprise Challenge held on January 4, at IIM Kolkata. Of the 500 applications from across India, theirs was the first team from Kerala to reach the finals of the challenge and win an award.
It all started when Previn Jacob stuck upon an idea of making straws using the leaf stalks of a papaya plant which is naturally hollow while visiting a papaya farm at his native place at Ranni. The idea was initially ridiculed by many people, say the youngsters. They also had great difficulty in finding the right mentors or people who could support them in converting the idea into a marketable product in the Kerala ecosystem. However, having dealt with failure before they had a never give-up attitude and believed in the idea and after over 10 months of concerted efforts, the random idea that was once discussed over a cup of tea became a product. They also received great support from a research scientist based in Thiruvananthapuram itself. The good Samaritan wants to remain anonymous.
The past year was the most difficult days, the youngsters reminiscence. Having put all their savings in the idea there were days when they were stretched to fill petrol in their vehicles. However, they had some close friends and a family that believed in them. “Those were days of apprehensions about success, but finally, we made it. We have formed a company ‘Greenikk Sustainable Ventures Pvt Ltd’ at Kochuveli Industrial area in the capital to fulfil our dream,” says Fariq.
According to Previn, ‘Greenikk’, is a sustainable brand that converts organic waste to value-added alternatives for single-use plastics. “Our product is an alternative to single-use plastic straws by using the leaf stalks of papaya plant as raw material. We buy this waste raw material from the farmers, thus providing them with extra revenue from the leaf stalks that they used to throwaway,” says Previn. Many angel investors and venture capital firms have also approached them to invest in their venture.
The papaya straws would hit the markets soon. The product has a shelf life of over six months and the developers are looking to sell them at a price of `1-1.4 per straw based on size.But being a mass-market product they are working on expanding their production facility to cater to the mass market at attractive prices. They are also working on leaf-based plates as future product lines.