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Kaushal Shah: UK based Indian Entrepreneur and his idea of Waste Not, Want Not

As a certified B Corporation, sustainability's at the heart of our business

Published: Sep 24, 2020 02:32:41 PM IST
Updated: Sep 24, 2020 02:46:34 PM IST

Kaushal Shah: UK based Indian Entrepreneur and his idea of Waste Not, Want Not
Having grown up in a family that specializes in paper production, from an early age, Kaushal understood the importance of innovation. Observing traditional methods, he realized there must be better and more efficient ways to produce paper. The need for a sustainable solution pushed him to find answers. The idea was simple yet effective- why cut down trees for paper, when agricultural waste could be used instead? After perfecting this method, he took it from an experimental idea to a working concept. While he cannot save the nearly 4 billion trees that are cut worldwide for paper, he aims to make his own contributions to a sustainable and carbon-neutral future.   

Kaushal Shah setup envoPAP to make sustainable materials made out of the waste of agricultural fibers, which are sourced from India. The brand was started in 2015 and has made a revenue of £8 Million so far by exporting agro-based materials made in India across the world. Kaushal views sustainable development as a core business principle.  

●   Tell us a bit about yourself and what led to this idea. 

I come from a family of paper producers in India, so I know the packaging world inside out. I moved to the UK in 2015 to study business at the University of Southampton. While attending a packaging conference in Germany, I first saw the growing need for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) to improve their green credentials, especially through plastic-free packaging and knew that it’s the right opportunity to be tapped, which led to the idea. My home country of India generates a lot of agricultural waste, which includes sugarcane, each year. envoPAP was founded to make better use of abundant sugarcane waste to create high-quality, environmentally friendly and ecologically viable printing and packaging products.

●    What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far as an entrepreneur?

Learning to delegate work is by far the most important trait you have to acquire. I kept control of the majority of things until a very late stage and even when the company began to expand, I continued doing the tasks I’d always done because I wanted perfect execution. This soaked up much of my time and prevented me focusing on the bigger picture. Once I could entrust tasks to other people, I had a lot of free time for research and funding.

●    How do you think you’ve innovated your sector and why?

There are many new printing material suppliers entering the market, but they lack global reach and scalability because they require new machines to be used. It was vital that our products could be rapidly scaled up in terms of production by our clients.  The alternative was having to create new materials and then identify manufacturers who could actually use them. The biggest innovation we’ve made is developing and optimizing our products so they can be used immediately, by any printing and packaging company globally. We’ve made it as easy as “plug and play” for printing materials effectively. Our products are user-friendly straight out of the box. We’re quite unique already as we fall into multiple industry segments, be that the packaging sector, the new materials sector or indeed the paper industry. But what really sets us apart is our ability to utilize more than four different kinds of waste materials and make that into printing and packaging products. These products are flexible and customizable to our clients’ needs.

●    Any tip for your fellow Entrepreneurs?  

Always focus on the product.  You just need to focus on building the product and keeping your customers happy. When people pay you again and again for the same thing - you know you’ve created a good product.

●    How important is company culture and what plans do you have for ‘your business’ over the next two years?

I love a workplace with an extremely passionate team that has the freedom and responsibility to overcome challenges in their own way. I’m a big believer in this.  Of course, much of this is down to the team you create and cultivate. It took me two years to get the right head of business development in place.

We have innovated with reusing agricultural waste to create new materials and focused on using waste from India. In the next few years, we will identify other geographies with agricultural waste and convert that into locally produced products. We’re moving in a model of localisation - being a local company but using waste from across the world.

●   What’s the single most important decision that you made that contributed to your business?

Making the decision to start the business whilst I was still at university. Without that decision there would be no business. Secondly, I used the early months, whilst I was still studying, to keep my costs low and do all the research required. 

●    How did you conquer those moments of doubt that so often affect entrepreneurs or stop many with great ideas – what pushes you through?

What really keeps me going is that we’re not just a company making things. We’re raising the bar globally and bigger companies are looking at our innovations. We have to continually up our game and maintain our position at the forefront of innovation which drives me and the team forward.

Personally, I always want more from my life and I want to keep showcasing to the world that innovation makes things better and creates more impact. This can be the number of trees we save from being chopped down or the amount of carbon we are offsetting.

●   Tell us how the process works and do you think this could be widely implemented?  

Locally sourced agricultural waste materials from sugarcane, wheat straw and rice straw fibres blend together to create the fibres of our premium quality paper. Thus, giving agricultural waste a second life and contributing to the prevention of deforestation on a larger scale. We also have partnerships in place to manage the end of life. Thus, closing the loop. Comparatively higher cost to produce goods in an ethical & environment-friendly manner slows down global implementation. To engage the majority in a circular economy, it’s highly important for the costs to be acceptable. 

●    Is this technology scalable on a low budget and could it be implemented in developing countries?

Unfortunately, no. The current technology being used requires huge capital investments along with years of experience to set up effectively and operate efficiently. Yes, it should be implemented in developed countries. Sustainable development is extremely crucial for developing countries in order to balance economic, social & environmental requirements for the current generation without compromising the future generations’ needs.

●    Tell us why reusing materials has to become a norm for sustainability. How does sustainable material differ from renewable energy?

Re-using has proven to be an excellent preferred alternative for waste management practices as it limits the requirement of new natural resources including timber etc. Renewable materials are constantly replenished or recycled in a natural process. They are organically derived from renewable sources instead of fossil origins however they can still be unsustainable if they are being used  faster than they can naturally regenerate. 

●    Has the pandemic changed the way things work?

Yes, the pandemic has surely changed the way things worked. We all very well adjusted to a new work from home theme to ensure the safety of all our employees. With an advancement towards a completely radical approach which goes against the fundamental nature of our business, we have come out of it as a very flexible organisation. With a global business across 4 continents, we tend to visit our clients on a regular basis to manage our current relationships along with attending monthly expos for generating awareness for our brand in an international market.

●    Tell us about the journey of envoPAP.

We make innovative, sustainable packaging that’s kind to the planet. Every item of envoPAP packaging is recyclable, biodegradable, compostable, marine-degradable and has a lower carbon footprint than conventional products. By using renewable sources—like sugarcane waste instead of wood—our production has a much smaller environmental footprint than traditional packaging, and still delivers an industry-leading product.

As a certified B Corporation, sustainability’s at the heart of our business. We balance profit and purpose, striving for ethical, eco-friendly, transparent production. We’re also committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 around sustainability, responsibility and innovation.

Each metric tonne of envoPAP helps save 50 trees from being chopped down for paper and packaging production. So far, we’ve saved 760,000+ trees from deforestation. By 2030, we aim to save 10 million trees across the globe, as well as empowering 1,000+ people through job opportunities and donating profits towards sustainable development.

●    In your own words, tell us the importance of why sustainable materials are the future.

With the current environmental crisis & the rate of degradation, the right things to do for the planet is to make the most of the byproducts rather than depending on our natural resources. The packaging industry needs a shake-up and we’re here to do it. Saving the planet’s not a competition—it’s a crucial task that needs everyone to come together for the greater good.

That’s why we’re creating a Second Life Certification. It’s a way to validate other companies’ products as matching our high standards for sustainability. By helping other companies change their production methods, our impact will continue to multiply and reshape the industry.

Disclaimer: The views, suggestions and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Forbes India journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.

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