December 24, 2010
School of Business, Kochi
Environmental pollution due to plastic waste is a serious issue in contemporary times. The ubiquitous plastic bags that are thrown away so easily present a huge hazard.
They are not biodegradable; hence there is no safe way to dispose them. If burned, carcinogenic toxins are produced, that leach into the soil and enter the food chain. If buried, the bags pollute the soil and groundwater.
In India, they are not always burned or buried. Instead, they are seen everywhere, littering the landscape, causing a huge nuisance.
Now second-year MBA students from Amrita’s Kochi campus may have finally found a solution. They proposed using soft plastic bags as raw material to make fashionable, long-lasting college bags for use by Indian students.
The idea came when the students’ coordinators visited a village in Bhuj, Gujarat, where the women-folk gifted exquisitely embroidered bags to them. These bags were hand-made and used virgin soft plastic as lining material.
“We are confident that young students in India will be keen to adopt a product that is not only tastefully designed but also helps the environment,” they stated, referring to the growing environmental awareness among Indian college students and young professionals today.
In order to develop a product that meets the needs of the targeted consumer group, the business model recommended incremental product innovation rather than spending money on advertising.
The students’ plan was accepted for Stage 2 of a social business plan competition, Utthan 2011, organized by the Faculty of Management Studies, Banaras Hindu University.
If selected in the competition, their business plan will not only win a cash award, but will also possibly receive support from the UGC for implementation.
The students’ plan seeks to replicate the success of the famous European Freitag bag in India.
In Switzerland, in the mid 90s, two brothers, Markus and Daniel Freitag, started a small business using discarded truck tarpaulins, used seat belts and bicycle inner tubes to make premium-priced designer carry bags.
The first 40 bags, which were made in 1993, were not advertised, rather word of mouth made them popular among the young urban population in the city of Zurich, Switzerland’s financial and research hub.
Seventeen years later, today the company sells over 200,000 bags per year, from 350 points of sale worldwide.
If this amazing success became possible in a country like Switzerland with a small population that is aging, then perhaps even better results can be sought in India, the country of the youth.
“These designer bags made from discarded soft plastic bags could help provide employment to women self-help groups across the country,” suggested the student proposal. “The bags should be bought from the women at wholesale prices, at least 60% of retail.”