Welcome to The Idea Breakdown, a new startup podcast hosted by Nikhil Arora, Managing Director, GoDaddy India.
The startup podcast covers the journey of an idea:
- Starting from its inception
- Converting it into a product
- Finally carving out a niche for itself in the life of the consumers
It is interesting to know how modern technologies and sustainability-driven startups are changing the way we eat, interact, travel, and the way we live today.
It has always been a mystery to understand the thought process of innovators who give birth to new ideas and shape them into sustainable businesses.
Through The Idea Breakdown startup podcast, curious minds can now listen and learn from modern-day thinkers, business owners, inventors, innovators, and leaders.
Let us introduce you to Aslee
In this article, let’s discuss the podcast featuring a sustainable lifestyle brand called Aslee (listen here). To discuss the same, guest speakers for the episode were the co-founders of Aslee, Zoya Wahi and Nitij Singh.
Aslee is a sustainable lifestyle brand that produces apparel from ethically sourced, sustainable materials, including hemp, bamboo, and nettle.
First of all, let’s understand what sustainability is
Environmental scientists define sustainability as ‘the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.’
Sustainability is the processes and actions we take to avoid the wasting of natural resources
Let’s take an example of a reusable metal straw that reduces the consumption of plastic and helps in maintaining an ecological balance.
These days metal straws are in trend and have become part of our lifestyle. This is a simple illustration of the shift in people’s mindset and how they judge their actions and their impact on the environment.
Now, let’s dive further and understand how the idea of Aslee struck Zoya and Nitij.
Aslee – the idea behind it
During 2016-17, Nitij was working on a rehabilitation project post-earthquake in Nepal, Kathmandu.
He was working directly with communities when he found that a community was using a locally grown fabric to produce very interesting products. Since all industries were badly hit due to the earthquake, there was almost zero demand for the product.
Zoya and Nitij were old friends, pursuing different careers at that time. Zoya was luckily visiting Nepal and met Nitij.
They both knew that long-term aid was not the solution.
So, they started working on a crowdfunding campaign to support this community. They started campaigning for these local products and saw traction for such products in the market.
It led them to dig deeper into the textile industry. They were surprised to find that textile is the second-largest polluting industry. After rounds of research, they innovated and launched fabrics and apparel that were eco-friendly and sustainable.
Small businesses – the torch bearers in sustainability
In India, small businesses are the front runners in eco-innovations. Here are some examples to illustrate this:
- Farmers across the states are adopting more eco-organic farming. Especially the northeast state Meghalaya has adopted policies on promoting organic farming and has registered the highest per capita income of farmers.
- Similarly, in the Electric Vehicle (EV) segment, a lot of innovation is happening in the E-rickshaw space that is also primarily driven by small businesses.
- A company in south India is using the leftovers of coconut to make vegan leather. It is a super helpful innovation as it prevents the harmful impact of leather tanning and compensates farmers adequately for the coconut waste.
On the contrary, for several big brands, the main focus is consumerism and the bottom line. However, profitability should not be purely in terms of monetary benefits. When something is produced cheap, someone has paid the cost of it. Most often, it’s the environment.
The time has come when we should shift the gears and switch from mindless consumerism to sustainable production.
Consumers becoming conscious about sustainability
These days consumers are far more educated and concerned about the ecosystem. While they may not have comprehensive information on how they can change their lifestyle, they understand there is a need for sustainable alternatives.
However, there is still the need for education on sustainable alternatives available in the market. Therefore, there is a requirement for startups and small businesses to innovate and create sustainable lifestyle products.
Policy and regulations
It’s challenging for big businesses to keep an eye on the bottom line and focus on sustainability issues. Large businesses are so deep into production and operation that they don’t have enough resources and budget to invest in research and innovations.
Enabling policies from the government can provide the required nudge for large corporations to adopt and follow sustainable practices in their supply chain.
Small business advice from Zoya and Nitij
The best advice that Zoya and Nitij shared for small businesses is to have an online presence because it adds a lot of validation to the company. If someone can find you on an internet search, it shows that you’re a legitimate business.
Online business is already booming due to COVID-19. E-commerce in India grew by 25% in FY21 alone.
Similarly, Aslee had initially adopted a mix of offline and online presence but, to scale up further, they are focusing more on their online presence.
Editor’s note: No business website? Now is the time to get one. Find a GoDaddy-certified web developer here by scrolling down to “Companies looking for certified GoDaddy professionals?” and submitting a request.
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More and more people are getting educated about sustainability and demanding accountability from businesses. Sustainability is not just a fad, but it is here to stay.
Many countries are now pledging to be carbon neutral, and all of this will make governments, businesses, and consumers adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle in the coming years. Small businesses have a big responsibility to innovate and lead the way to create a sustainable India.