A UP man’s tryst with Kerala startup ecosystem and a growing ‘green’ business

(Left) Rishabh Suri and Rohan Suri who have co-founded Kerala-based startup 'Qudrat' Photo: Special arrangement

Amid the exodus of Malayali youth in pursuit of employment and business opportunities to other parts of the world, two young brothers from Uttar Pradesh have set up a promising 'green' business in the southern state. Rishabh Suri and his brother Rohan Suri founded Qudrat, a startup manufacturing disposable tableware, in Thiruvananthapuram in 2020 as they explored the business opportunities emerging out of waste management. He was into motorcycle dealership before that.

Rishabh set up his startup in Thiruvananthapuram as he wanted the technical support of the National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology under CSIR for the research and development of his products.

Qudrat now manufactures plates and tumblers made of rice husk and rice straw, straws made of picked coconut leaves, and straws and spoons made of wheat and rice flour spoons. The company’ products also include sauce or dip bowls, salad bowls, dinner and snack plates, and compartmentalised ‘canteen’ plates. Once used, the Qudrat products can be used bio fertilisers or animal food.

The idea of tableware made of agriculture waste and residues struck Rishabh when he visited a sugar factory run by a friend-mentor of him in UP. There he came across the possibility of using sugarcane bagasse to make tableware.

Rishabh signed up an agreement with CSIR in December 2020 and the research went on for the next one year and a half. The pilot product was launched in August 2022 and sales started at a small scale by November that year. The company started diversification of its products by April 2023 and started entering into partnerships with like-minded companies for manufacturing.

“Initially we believed in manufacturing everything by ourselves but as and when we realised we have limited resources and time we opted for partnerships. Products from rice husk and rice straw we manufacture in Thiruvananthapuram, natural fibres, coconut leaves we do from the outskirts of Bengaluru and bagass mainly out of Gujarat. Our natural fibre cutlery also come from Gujarat,” Rishabh said.

The company has won grants to the tune of Rs 64 lakh so far. This includes monetary support from Startup India, Kerala Startup Mission and Ernest and Young. This fiscal, the company is closing in on a turnover of nearly Rs 75 lakh. Most of its sales happen in the B2B sector.

Asked about the experience of shifting from UP to Kerala to start a business, Rishabh said every place has its own merits and demerits and it was inevitable for businesses to overcome challenges to grow.

(Startup Saturday is Onmanorama’s weekend series featuring promising startups from Kerala. Find the previous stories here)

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