The name uByld might allude to its DIY origins, but today, it is a furniture label that has made its presence felt in hundreds of homes across Bengaluru. With upcycled solid pinewood the medium of choice, the label creates eco-friendly, sustainable, handmade furniture with rustic design as its trademark.
Conceived by Pradeep Nair four years ago, the startup was later partnered by Lavanya Ravishankar and Arun Ashok. How it all came about is interesting. “Pradeep came across an article which mentioned that 50 percent of the trees in India are chopped only to make furniture, with the unwanted portions being left unused or burnt. This led him to find out what other countries were doing with wasted wood. The search led him to pinewood which has been used across Europe for several decades now,” recalls Lavanya.
However, Pradeep did not subscribe to this wood immediately. At least not for furniture. A lover of pigeons, he experimented by making pigeon lofts out of this wood which were then left on the terrace to be subjected to different weather conditions. “Even after being kept outside for a long time, the wood remained strong, proving it was both water- and sunlight-resistant. That is when we knew we had a winner,” smiles Lavanya. Other points that work in favour of pine is that it is termite- and borer-resistant, she adds. The pinewood is sourced from Sweden. “Designers like Ana White and companies like Ikea have been promoting this wood since long. Sweden is a country that is extremely environment-conscious—every time they cut a tree, they replant one. Nothing is left to waste, and even the supply and consumption of wood is regulated by the government,” she explains.
Once the wood is seasoned (after being soaked in the river for eight to nine months and then dried in open fields), they are cut into slats and put into huge containers to be ferried to their respective destinations. Once it reaches Bengaluru, the company buys it from the dealers who otherwise sell it to the industries who use it for ceilings and decks, only to be destroyed after a couple of months. “This way we do not let it go waste,” says Lavanya. She adds that the pine found in India is of a lower density compared to the European variety which is high and thus suitable for furniture.
“We started small, by making cutlery stands, small tables and chairs where we would provide slats of wood besides necessary instruments and an instruction manual,” Lavanya recalls. Now, the brand has grown by leaps and bounds, moving into both home and office furniture. “I was uBlyd’s first customer having bought two chairs and a table. Not only was it striking but it got the stamp of approval from neighbours as well as my father-in-law who had knowledge of pine when he was employed at the Shivanasamudra Hydroelectric Power Station (the turbines from Germany came packed in this wood). Slowly, I started giving uByld some designs which is when Pradeep asked me to come on board as its designer,” says Lavanya.
Almost 90 per cent of the furniture here is handmade. “Every time, a new kind of machinery is introduced, a good percentage of carpenters become jobless overnight. Our carpenters (from the Vishwakarma community) are from north India and everything is done by hand with minimal machine work. Our designs are simple with no space for carvings as the latter do not mix well with pine. In fact, they are gloriously rustic. Being sunlight- and water-resistant, you could keep it outside as well,” she says.
Though uByld functions mainly as an online store, it welcomes customers to come and see for themselves what upcycled pine wood furniture is all about. “We started our first unit at Thanisandra which has now been converted into an ‘experience’ centre,” says Lavanya. For more information, log on to www.ubyld.com.