Even as the World, which is increasingly exposed to the threats of plastic use, is seeking new means to replace the ubiquitous wrapper material, experiments for a plausible solution has been spreading exponentially.
However, the lightness, the water-proof quality and the easy availability of the material make plastic a product that can hardly find a substitute immediately. It is in this context, Sham an entrepreneur based in Kochi, has decided to produce carry bags by merging cloth with paper. Sham has now applied for a patent for its technology and is ready to produce the bags or to share the know-how and licence for for its mass production elsewhere in the country. Sham shares the salient features, environmental benefits and the business prospects of his new product, which he calls 'pabric' (a portmanteau of paper and fabric) with Onmanorama:
Wrappers made of fabric and paper are already available in the market. How's 'pabric' different from them?
The paper-and-cloth envelops, used mainly for courier parcels, have been in use for more than 30 years. But we are making unique carry bags, not envelops. Our company - Raro Exim founded by myself and my friend Bindu to manufacture pre-fabric bags, has already applied for patent. Paper bags are attractive, but they cannot carry much weight. Cloth bags can hold weight, but they are not attractive. Our pabric bags are both attractive and can hold much weight.
When is it going to be available in the market?
Plastic bag is $20 billion market worldwide. To find a relevant replacement for plastic requires huge manufacturing and infrastructure facilities. We are planning to sell IPRs to venture capitalists so that the product can be spread world wide. We sent a few samples to a supermarket in New Zealand recently. They were impressed by the product and placed orders for 10 lakh bags every month. We need to devote our whole manufacturing unit in Rajapalayam to deliver the order. That's practically impossible. At presebt, we are producing the carry bags in small numbers and are about to market in Kerala and Tamil Nadu soon.
What's the actual process of making Raro-Exim pabric bags?
The process begins with printing designs on paper rolls. After that sparsely weaved cotton fabric is rolled around the paper rolls and then gums of varied temperatures are applied on them. The paper-fabric combo is then cut into pieces to make the bags using semi-automatic machines. Handles are separately stitched. A piece of card board is also fixed at the bottom of the bag to keep it firm. Our pabric bags can easily carry as much as 15 kilogram.
Can pabric bags replace plastic carry bags completely?
More paper bags and cloth bags may enter India when the ban on single-use plastic bags comes into effect. But materials like pabric have the potential to capture a major chunk of the market due to its quality, capacity, low-cost and attractive designs. I thing pabric bags are the best materials to replace plastic bags at the moment, at least cost-wise.
What would be the cost of these bags?
We can sell the medium-sized carry bags for Rs 5 per bag to shop keepers. The major cost of the bag is incurred by the technology used for the fabric weave. We're now researching on a new technology to cut the costs further so that the bags can be sold at cheaper rates.
How do you address the environmental issue of using paper for the bags?
Yes, we know that trees are cut for paper. But we import paper for the bags from the countries where trees are planted to compensate for tree-felling and deforestation. We are also planning the plant trees to use them for our pabric products.
How are you planning to spread your fabric bag use?
This can be a vocation that can generate income for inmates of old age homes or shelter homes as this requires no much physical exertion. We are trying to engage the residents of an old age home with 150 people into this programme with the help of CSR funds or government aids. This could be a source of income for them as well as a means to fight the plastic menace. We also welcome other companies or community network for women empowerment like Kudumbashree to join our mission and business. That is how we are planning to propagate the use of pabric materials at a fast pace.
Sham's mobile number: 8281671095