On a typical day, you go out for shopping, get your favourite items from the grocery shop and carry it back to your home in a plastic bag, often given generously by the cashier without any charge. This bag ends up being in a bin somehow and the next time you go out again, you bring back another bag. And the cycle continues. That’s almost an everyday story for a majority of us. What we don’t realise is that this plastic bag would not degrade for many generations to come and accumulate in our environment as has all the plastic we generated in the past.
It is with a resolve to tackle this challenge that Rohit Nayak, started EcoAd in 2009 from his college dorm. EcoAd, meaning “Eco friendly advertising” manufactures eco friendly paper bags made from recycled paper as a biodegradable alternative to plastic bags.
The Pune based enterprise has scaled successfully since then. They got into UnLtd India’s support programme and in Eureka, ecell (IIT-B). Then, in 2015, they raised their first equity seed round! Always enthusiastic about the project, Rohit agreed to do a short interview. We sat down with him to discuss the journey –
“It’s something that I started as a college project. I remember I was involved in all sorts of green projects as a student. But this stayed with me even after graduation. I kept on researching. Then, in 2009, me along with with a couple of friends – Satprakash and Sudhir established EcoAd”
EcoAd manufactures paper bags from recycled newspapers. These are sold to retailers around the city.
Rohit adds “Our bags are the only alternative to plastic bags in the market which is 100% degradable within 3 months, with a load capacity of over 10kgs.We do not cut trees – all paper bags are made from recycled newspaper and the customers can sell these bags after multiple uses at scrap value”
The Business Model
The business model revolves around a hyperlocal advertising concept. The company provides recycled paper-bags as an alternative to plastic bags at a feasible price. To do this, EcoAd generates revenue through selling advertising spaces on paper bags. Rohit pitches in – “While doing so, we help small scale local businesses to increase their visibility and outreach at a minimal price”
More importantly, EcoAd provides employment to local women, so they can work from home and earn up to Rs. 2,000-3,000/month. EcoAd employs these women to manufacture the paper bags.
Today, EcoAd employs over 200 women and has trained about 1300 in 2 states. The outreach has been immense. Claiming to replace over 1.5 million plastic bags in Pune alone, EcoAd currently caters to 200,000 consumers, having earned over ₹ 3 million in revenues till date.
From a college dorm project to an established player in the field, EcoAd’s journey is nothing short of inspiring. The mission has always been to eliminate the usage of plastic bags. EcoAd currently caters to customers from all over India as well as abroad, selling both offline and online.
But this wasn’t easy. According to Rohit, one of the biggest obstacles is changing mindsets.
“The biggest obstacle for EcoAd is to change consumer mentality and behaviour. We are spending tons of in social on-ground research, intervention on behavioural level to understand our customers better. And use this learning to build a strong growth strategy”
As for the budding social entrepreneurs out there – tackling similar roadblocks, Rohit has some valuable advice “Whenever in doubt, ask yourself – if you still believe in your dream, your idea. If it’s a yes – put your head down, ignore distractions and keep moving forward”