A significant banana-growing district, Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh has over 16,000 hectares of land devoted solely to the cultivation of the fruit. The farmers right here normally clear the stems and leaves of the banana bushes from their fields earlier than planting new crops, for which they rent additional labour. A considerable amount of banana waste is then dumped in pits or elsewhere, left to rot.
However one particular person to grasp the potential of this supposed waste was Mehul Shroff, an MBA graduate from the identical district. He determined to show it right into a viable enterprise.
“From my childhood, I’ve seen the farmers in our space dumping the banana waste after the harvest. I, too, wasn’t conscious of the large potential it had as agricultural waste till I did some analysis. So I needed to construct a sustainable enterprise and assist farmers,” Mehul tells The Higher India.
Began in 2018, Mehul’s sustainable startup makes banana fibre out of stems, which may be changed into helpful merchandise like handicrafts, textiles and paper. As we speak, he sells round three to 5 tonnes of banana fibre each month, incomes a turnover of round Rs 30 lakh yearly.
Extra than simply waste
After finishing his MBA in 2016, Mehul joined his household’s jewelry enterprise. However he all the time nurtured a dream of beginning a enterprise of his personal.
In an effort to fulfil this dream, he started researching to discover a viable and socially accountable enterprise thought. “That’s once I met the District Justice of the Peace of Burhanpur. After I expressed my thought to start out a novel enterprise, he steered that I begin by interested by what I can do in my very own district. This, in actual fact, made me seek for concepts inside my area,” says the 20-year-old.
Mehul additionally attended a workshop organised by the district administration and Navsari Agricultural College in Burhanpur. “Within the workshop, they talked about how fibres may be produced from the banana stem and the way it may be used within the textile, paper and handicraft industries,” he says, including that he spent round two years on his analysis and at last got here up with a strong marketing strategy.
“By way of my analysis, I understood that banana stems, although usually thought of agri-waste, are wealthy in cellulose and pure fibre content material. Subsequently, they make for the right enter to supply fibres that may be changed into materials,” he explains.
Earlier than beginning his enterprise, Mehul made certain that he understood all of the facets of the commerce, together with the dangers, challenges, and scope of the market. He additionally attended coaching from the ICAR-Nationwide Analysis Heart for Banana, Tiruchirappalli, which is on the forefront of selling banana fibre and its functions. He additionally interacted with the farmers of Burhanpur and shared his thought with them, garnering their assist.
Mehul began his sustainable enterprise, christened Shroff Industries, in 2018. He arrange a processing unit in Burhanpur and began sourcing banana stems throughout the district from farmers.
Mehul says one of many major challenges he confronted was discovering a marketplace for banana fibre.
“Our nation is the most important producer of bananas on the planet, however we’re but to discover the utmost potential of the crop. There’s a have to unfold consciousness on this regard,” he says.
“Even whereas advertising and marketing, it was a bit tough to persuade these within the textile trade in regards to the scope of banana fibre. They had been hesitant to strive one thing completely different and pure. So, I gave him the fibres at minimal value and even beneath the margin. As soon as they discovered the consequence to be optimistic, they had been satisfied.”
He ultimately moved on to discover the scope of constructing handicrafts from these fibres. He gave them out to ladies within the rural areas of Burhanpur to make completely different handicraft gadgets.
“It was one more problem to coach the artisans in making handicrafts, as they weren’t accustomed to the uncooked materials. At first, I used to assist them with it, however now I’ve appointed a coach who guides them in making banana fibre-based handicrafts,” says Mehul.
“At the moment, we’ve got round 40 ladies who make handicrafts for us. We even have 10 staff in our processing unit,” he provides.
These handicrafts embrace baskets, planters, ropes, luggage, brooms for worship, yoga mats, worship mats, wall clocks, and so forth. These merchandise are priced between Rs 100 and Rs 2,000, relying on the scale and work concerned.
In 2020, the enterprise hit a low when with the appearance of the pandemic. “The gross sales went down and it was probably the most tough instances. Now that the scenario has improved, we’re on the trail of restoration,” he says, including that at present, they produce round three to 5 tonnes of fibres per 30 days.
Apart from handicrafts, fibres are an ideal different for making paper. “However the course of of constructing paper out of the banana fibre may be very labour-intensive. Subsequently, we now outsource the processing work by offering the uncooked supplies,” he provides.
Mehul says he has additionally launched an natural liquid nutrient utilizing banana waste as a base. “This was examined by Navsari Agricultural College in Burhanpur. The product accommodates not solely important plant vitamins but in addition development regulators and waste-decomposing organisms. It should assist enhance soil fertility, thereby rising productiveness,” he elaborates.
A serving to hand to banana farmers
Mehul’s initiative is a blessing to many banana farmers within the area, he says.
“When a farmer informs me when they should clear the sector post-harvest, we ship our procurement crew to the sector. They reduce and clear the agri-waste from the fields and transport it to our processing unit. This helps them save the price of the labour concerned in reducing the stems and clearing the sector,” says Mehul, including that at present, he sources stems recurrently from round 50-100 farmers within the area.
A single banana stem provides round 200 grams of fibre.
Bhaulal Kushwaha, a banana farmer in Burhanpur, has been collaborating with Mehul for the previous few years. He says clearing up his 3 hectares of the sector after harvest was an costly affair till Mehul got here alongside.
“After the harvest, I needed to rent labourers to chop the stems and clear up the sector. They used to cost round Rs 3 per stem and it value me round Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 in each harvest cycle. However now with Mehul’s initiative, I’ve been in a position to save greater than I used to,” he elaborates.
Mehul at present works on a B2B mannequin of selling for his enterprise. “Most of our gross sales occur via exhibitions. There may be additionally demand for merchandise via phrase of mouth,” he says.
He notes, “Banana fibre is an agri-waste and it doesn’t have to be cultivated for the aim of procuring fibres, like cotton. It’s a sustainable different to many energy-intensive oil-based fibres. It’s also biodegradable and therefore eco-friendly. Subsequently, it’s important to unfold consciousness on this regard and extra individuals ought to discover this enterprise alternative, thereby constructing a marketplace for such sustainable merchandise.”
For extra info and enquiries, you may contact Mehul at firstname.lastname@example.org
Edited by Divya Sethu; Photograph credit: Mehul Shroff
Supply: Burhanpur district web site