interview: SIP IT INDIA
This week, Pukaar was given an opportunity to interview one of the most inspiring pioneers in the field of 'sustainable living'.
Sip It India is the first organization to take an initiative of replacing the plastic straws with wheat straws, which are 100 % natural and biodegradable. They are manufactured from wheat stems which are thrown away or burned after harvesting. After being used as straws, these products can be thrown in compost bins, where they can be broken down as compost in pits and used for agricultural purposes. In an interview with Pukaar, the founder of the Sip It India, Mr Nakul Agrawal disclosed some interesting and eye-opening facts about his product and his organization.
Q: How would you introduce yourself to the readers? Tell us about your organization Sip It India and what inspired you to take such initiative?
Nakul: I am Nakul Agrawal. I did my post-graduation from IIT Delhi from where I developed this idea during my thesis.There was problems that I strongly wanted to do something about - the air pollution in Delhi due to the burning of crops in September and October. It became impossible for us to come out of the room due to pollution.
I was always interested to work for the environment and I came across a viral video where a plastic straw was stuck in the nose of the turtle. That video went viral and it inspired me to come up with an idea or solution like biodegradable alternative and can solve the problem of pollution in Delhi, NCR.
I started researching about why the practice of farmers burning their crops had continued to prevail since the 1900s. Also, with the year 1940 came the paper straws and plastic straws came into picture after the 1970s. With this the business of paper straw went dim and people started using plastic straws. With so much awareness about the environment and sustainable living, paper straws are making a comeback.
I feel that paper straws, at some point, are a menace too. They cause large scale cutting down of trees. So I decided to come up with an alternative to not only the plastic but also the paper straws by using the waste of wheat production. This is completely undesirable for the farmers and using them as a biodegradable alternative to come up with a solution as drinking straws saves trees.
Q: What is the biggest strength of Sip It organization and what is the biggest challenge that you faced?
Nakul: Biggest strength for any organization are the people around it. We have the product in our hand and we are getting reviews and feedbacks of the customers who have used it and they seem to be loving the idea of converting waste from wheat production and converting it into a resource. The positive feedback from the consumers is one of the biggest strength and also the production team who are making so much effort are to be appreciated to keep up the production facilities running in the market.
The biggest challenge can be that this product needs to reach as many people as it can as this innovative concept is new to the market and lots of awareness needs to be created so this is the biggest challenge for the organization in next 1 year. So getting in touch with organizations who are working on the ground with people to create awareness about all the environmental hazards and bringing them to know about all such alternatives helps us to take this forward.
Q. In what ways has been your organization successful and how have the people responded to it and how is the product doing so far?
Nakul: Frankly speaking its only 3 months that we have started making this product online and it’s too early to say whether we have achieved any success or call back. Maybe down the line in the next 6 months, I would be in a better position to answer this question
Q: People who have already tried the product what do they have to say about it?
Nakul: People have loved the idea and few clients are interested to get this product in bulk and want to use these straws in their cafes daily. So its petty good response and people are loving the idea and even they want feedback from their customers how they feel about the straws which they are giving back to us and its motivating for us.
Q: Are the straws available for bulk like in cafes and restaurants or individuals can also use the product?
Nakul: Individuals can also order the product online from www.sipit.in. They can go online and order these straws plus there are whole sellers if people want it in bulk and we ship across India.
Q: Where do you see your organization in the next 5 years? What are some of the long term objectives that you are hoping to achieve in the next 5 years?
Nakul : What I have thought of for my organization is that we don't want to be stuck with only one product we want to make biodegradable alternatives for single-use products like plastic so it can be tableware like plates, glasses water bottles or even a small product like earbuds that we use every day which remains in the planet for 200 to 300 years as the plastic thing do not degrade. So my idea is to come up with bio degradable alternatives that are actually from wastes. we are not damaging the environment by cutting down trees. The wastes which we have in bulk in our country from that wastes we would be making these products and I hope people look forward to it and also India has set up targets by 2022 to reduce single-use plastic and I hope we can make small contribution in that initiative and its good for everyone as the direction in which the climate change is going, this is the need of the hour and I hope India can take up the lead role for the whole world.
Q: As you have been interacting with a lot of people like your clients and customers, do you think the Indians are aware of the climate change and do they know what problems they are going to face in future?
Nakul: We are almost 1.3 billion people and the major problem in India is the availability of such products. People in India are more into cheaper products. Suppose I keep two products one is the plastic straw and the other is the wheat straw, and selling wheat straw at 1 rupee whereas the plastic straw is available at 30 paise they won’t think twice but would prefer plastic straw. The need of the hour is for the government to take up these initiatives so these products can be produced in bulk. There is already a demand in the market, responses are approaching us. They want this product but in some affordable rates and that affordability can be brought if we have a production in bulk so this has to be taken at the government level. Suppose, we take the example of the LED bulbs which were before sold for 250 rupees and now they are sold in 60 rupees, hence if the government up this initiative at the national level we can reduce the prices of the products based on demands and people are eager to take it up these products for their restaurants and cafes and even in their day to day life. So there is a concern in the mind of people maybe after the Swach Bharat campaign, people are ready to use such products and I hope we see changes in the coming 2 to 3 years.