A lot of people adopt habits that aren’t eco-friendly partly because they’re unaware of it and partly because of their convenience. Nobody does something with the intention of harming the environment although the case is different for those who just don’t care about anything at all.
While the majority think that reduction in plastic use is about ditching plastic bags and bottles, the solution is in the overlooked items that could easily be replaced. As such, four undergrad students from Chitwan worked on the idea of manufacturing biodegradable diapers that not only reduce the wastes ending up in the landfills but also eliminates the hazardous effects the chemical infused diapers have on babies.
In conversation with Ms. Binita Soti, one of the team members of the idea “SMBP Bio-degradable diapers” competing on 4th National Social Business Challenge.
1. Let’s start with your business idea. Can you tell us what SMBP Bio-degradable Diapers is all about?
So, we’re trying to replace the use of diapers found in the market with bio-degradable diapers just as the name suggests. Since a lot of people are unaware of the harmful effects of using plastic-based diapers, we’re trying to make them understand the benefits of switching to bio-degradable diapers. These will be made from banana wrappers, bamboo and other war materials that are easily found in Nepal and are throws as waste which can be recycled as a cover for diapers. Thus, we will be helping in the reduction of reusable waste and preventing health complications in babies too.
2. What is the legal status of your company? What stage is the company in?
Since we’ve just ideated on this business, we haven’t registered the company yet. Accordingly, we are in the ideation phase for now.
3. What is the social problem that you are trying to solve or what social change do you see your product or service can bring in society?
We have seen that a lot of people are unaware of the harmful effects of using plastic-based products. Although they’re convenient and seem friendly at first, they actually have a huge negative environmental impact. We’re trying to solve the problem of ignorance among people about these effects and consequently promote bio-degradable alternatives. For now, we’re focused on diapers because our primary motive along with reducing plastic waste is to promote good health in babies.
4. What is your current staff strength and how many people did you start with? How do you plan to raise funds to start your company?
We do not have staff as such as we haven’t started out yet. We’re a team of four people that includes me, Shristi Ghimire, Pradip Rijal and Manisha Poudel.
Raising funds is actually a big challenge for us because we’re only students and do not have a lot of funds at our disposal. So, we’re thinking of dividing part of the costs among ourselves and the other part through a bank loan.
5. What challenges do you think you will be facing after starting your company?
The major challenge will be changing the mindset of people while suggesting them to switch to our products. Since we all are focused on the short-term benefits rather than long term hazards, we all prefer using plastic products as they are undoubtedly convenient and affordable. Therefore, convincing them to use eco-friendly products will be a great challenge. Other than that, we will also have difficulty finding all the raw materials right here in Nepal required to manufacture bio-degradable diapers. As Nepal is still majorly dependent on plastic-based products, it will be tough for us to find biodegradable raw materials.
6. How will you overcome your challenges?
I think awareness is the key to overcoming any challenge if the motive is ethical. That’s what we will be doing in order to overcome our challenges as we know that what we are offering to society is beneficial to everyone.
7. Who are your target customers? What is the business model for self-sufficiency or profit-making model?
Since we’re located in Chitwan, our target customers will be mothers aged 20-30 in Chitwan for now. However, we plan to diversify in terms of geography once the operation starts kicking.
Our business is based on the self-sufficiency model as whatever income generated will be injected back into the business in order to make the process as efficient and the product as better as possible.
8. What are the key needs of your company?
Our key need, for now, is definitely fund as we can’t start the company without it. Other than that, we require mentorship from experts so that we can make the business model even better and sustainable in the future.
9. Do you consider yourself as a Social Entrepreneur?
Well, I believe that I am doing something for the betterment of society. We did not come up with this idea simply to generate profits; we wanted to bring about a positive in society and hence worked on polishing this idea. Therefore, I do consider myself and my team members as social entrepreneurs.
10. Will you be measuring the impact of your product? What are your thoughts on impact measurement?
I truly believe that any business that wants to solve societal problems should measure the impact they have been making in society. It doesn’t matter if the impact is visible or not, the point is they need to know if their actions have been making any difference, if at all. So, I will be measuring the impact of my product by constantly keeping tabs about the health status of babies and the number of diapers ending up in landfills.
11. Any other information that you would like to share?
Change is necessary if we want to make our world a better place to live in. It doesn’t matter where you start from or how large impact you are making; what matters is that you’re making an effort. That’s all that counts. So, make positive changes in your life and start using biodegradable products.
For more information about this innovative idea, connect with Binita Soti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviewed and artcile by Yangzum Lama