- Anamika Sengupta, social entrepreneur and founder of Almitra Sustainables talks about how she set up two successful businesses while perfecting the art of slow living.
Toothbrush – each one of us uses dozens over a lifetime. 95% of us have used plastic toothbrushes or have only recently switched to bamboo. “So, if at Almitra Sustainables we’ve managed to sell a million toothbrushes in 1.5 years, it means that we’ve been able to change or at least touch a million lives. But the point isn’t our sales. The point is that millions of people every day, are making the switch from disposable to sustainable. And our aim is to provide people with that natural alternative; to make simple products for daily use, that have a massive impact’’ says an impassioned Anamika Sengupta, who along with her husband, Biplab Dutta, is the founder of one of India’s leading eco-conscious brands, Almitra Sustainables. The former Global Recruitment Head at a leading IT firm turned to entrepreneurship after a bitter workplace experience during her maternity leave.
One of my earliest purchases after becoming a mother was a baby sling, which I called for from the US. It made me think about how traditional and intuitive baby slings are to Indian culture and how sad it was that I had to import it.
“I had two options – to take up another job or trust my creative instinct. Gaining strength from the creative enzymes that are on a natural high during pregnancy and postpartum, I decided to trust my gut.’’ says Anamika, mother to 6-year-old Neo. ‘’One of my earliest purchases after becoming a mother, was a baby sling, which I called for from the US. It made me think about how traditional and intuitive baby slings are to Indian culture and how sad it was that I had to import it. So I started making some DIY slings and before I knew it, just by word of mouth, I suddenly had a community of new parents reaching out to me for ‘babywearing’ guidance.’’ Thus was born Almitra Tattva in 2015, the parent company to Almitra Sustainables. Almitra Tattva’s mission is to present Indian babywearing art on the global platform. They have a curated website, 12 regional Facebook Groups and representatives in several countries. Interestingly, the European market accounts for 90% of their sales. Biplab is also India’s first certified male Babywearing Consultant.
Working with artisans across the country for Almitra Tattva exposed me to a variety of sustainable practices and products.
Almitra Sustainables was launched on World Earth Day – June 5th. 2018. ‘’I just couldn’t bear putting plastic in Neo’s mouth to clean his first tooth’’ Anamika recounts. “Besides, we’ve raised Neo to be outdoors. Following his natural cues was a priority for us and I started seeking healthy and eco-friendly alternatives for everyday products. Working with artisans across the country for Almitra Tattva exposed me to a variety of sustainable practices and products. A few years ago, I didn’t’ even know a bamboo toothbrush existed. And here we are now, making them for others,” she laughs.
Does she have a favorite at Almitra? “The coconut coir scrub! It is deceptively simple in its use and disposal, yet complex in construction and aim,’’ says Anamika. ‘’We’ve been working with the Government Coir Cluster of Kerala for this. An alternative to plastic scrubs, the coconut coir is revolutionary in terms of how mindful and affordable it is. It is durable, it fluffs up when in contact with water and is stitched from inside so it doesn’t disintegrate like typical coir. In fact, it is adapted for our modern sewage systems which have narrow outlets.’’
The coconut coir scrub is durable, fluffs up when in contact with water and is stitched from inside so it doesn’t disintegrate like typical coir
The challenges faced by a social entrepreneur are many, but upon questioning Anamika, her insightful answer took us off-guard. “We started slow, and thought we were doing our bit towards sustainable living. However, we were surprised by the response to our products – the demand is so high! Given the environmental crisis, I know we should speed up production but how can I be forced to enter a fast pace when I stand to risk the very essence of my brand? I need to look into every detail – from materials to the manufacturing process to the packaging to ensure it aligns with our mission of being 100% eco-friendly. So, when people ask me about scalability, funding etc., I don’t want to lose my natural rhythm and fluctuate. Of course I want to reach more people. But I’ll only go there at my pace, without losing sight of the basics.’’
Given the environmental crisis, I know we should speed up production but how can I be forced to enter a fast pace when I stand to risk the very essence of my brand?
As encouraging as Almitra’s ever-increasing customer base is, research still indicates that sustainable living is a distant concept for the majority of urban population. How can we spread the word? ‘’Climate change is real, but it is not relatable. It is larger-than-life and makes you feel helpless. However, what we can control is how we live our life every day. Take stock of the toxins, chemicals and plastics you expose your body to. Observe the materials of the products you buy and the food you eat. By opting for the most natural, chemical-free version, you would have already made a difference to yourself, and hence the planet. Next, we need to eliminate over consumption at its source. Instead of justifying purchases by repurposing and recycling (which is important) we must work towards not using resources at all.’’
Take stock of the toxins and plastics you expose your body to. Observe the materials of the products you buy and the food you eat. By opting for natural, chemical-free things, you’ve already made a difference to yourself, and hence the planet.
Today, social entrepreneurship is a viable profession, Anamika believes. She draws inspiration from The Earth Collective – Delhi, and closer to home, #MahimBeachCleanUp. ‘’A simple couple who try to do their bit by going down and cleaning the beach, and people join in. That was our founding philosophy too when we started out from our house. I was just concentrating on bringing in better alternatives into our life and it snowballed because people started believing. Once people start believing in what you do, anything is possible,” she signs off.
Neha is a literature, classic rock and football enthusiast with a love for travel. A full-time Mommy Blogger, you’ll often find her reading to her daughter or looking up the best substitute to anything plastic!