Innovator: Prof. Saji Varghese
Email Id: saji. email@example.com
Saji Varghese, 51, an associate professor at the Department of English, Christ University, Bengaluru, first came across the thought of making straws out of coconut leaves when he noticed several dry coconut leaves lying on the campus ground.
Dr. Saji Varghese explains that the straws are made in a 100 percent chemical-free process. A simple cleaning and steaming process brings out the leaf’s healthy natural wax onto the surface, making the leaf antifungal and hydrophobic. This make it useful as a straw. It has a shelf life of nine months and stays steady in beverages for more than six hours. Moreover, over two hundred multi-layered straws can be made from a single frond of coconut. There can be no shortage of raw material as demands rise globally due to abundant supply of naturally falling leaves. Fully customizable straws are available in range of 3mm-13mm diameter for the varied user demands.
Behind the invention of the ecological straws lies the heart of a man who sincerely wishes to generate rural jobs, particularly for women and is committed to saving the planet. Professor Varghese received funding support from his college to develop the technology to mass-produce the straws. His company Blessing Palms Pvt Ltd, a Startup incubated at Christ University, has produced five machines in-house that are patented.
His coconut straws have received several accolades, including the Shrestha Udyami Guru Puraskar 2020 from the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) and the First Position at Start-Up Launchpad by the ASSOCHAM, New Delhi and HBNCRIIA global appreciation through GIAN. He has also received funding from GIAN under Micro Venture Innovation Fund
Dr. Saji Varghese’s invention opens up many vistas to clean the environment by preventing the burning of leaves, eliminating single-use plastic straws, providing income, and jobsfor women in rural areas of India in other coconut growing countries.
According to 2018 India Today report, India creates 25,000 tons of plastic waste every year, of which only 9 percent has been recycled. This inspired him to develop eco-friendly straws. Plastic Straws are one of the classic examples of single-use plastics. The majority of these straws are made from Polypropylene, a recycled material. As a result, straws always end up in landfills or damage our oceans and marine wildlife.
Each year a coconut tree naturally loses up to six of its leaves. same subject, Prof Varghese made a study and learned that these leaves were simply burnt due to the difficulty in their disposal. That’s when he decided to create an eco-friendly product out of it in 2017
Overcoming the Challenges:
He developed unique coconut leaf straws that sell at a Rs 3-10/straw. . He claims to have received orders for more than 20 million straws from over ten countries since he introduced the product in the market.
He is now setting up production centers in the villages of coastal India, where he installs the machinery and employs women from the communities to collect the fallen dry fronds from the coconut trees and produce the straws. He has set up the first three centers in Madurai, Tuticorin, and Kasaragod.
Awards and Honours:
They entered the Climate Launchpad Award in the Netherlands and won the award for Best Innovation for Social Impact against 45 competing countries.
Shreshta Udyami Guru Puraskar 2020 from the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) and the First Position at Start-Up Launchpad by the ASSOCHAM, New Delhi.
Recognised as Top 500 startups of Kuberan’s house – India
Congratulations to 2 C-CAMP startups for winning the HDFC Bank Parivartan SmartUp Grants.
The business innovation won the first position in Kochi in the ASSOCHAM’s Start-Up Launchap Series and recently received funding from NABARD of INR 65 Lakhs.
Help is needed on:
Creating a funding platform for supporting such green innovations with major global environmental impact
Launching the product and the machine outside India by identifying local entrepreneurs, public institutions, forest departments, environmental NGOs, etc.
Identify institutions that can support the training of the community members who can buy these machines and learn to make these in other countries where coconut trees are abundant keeping the IPRs of the innovator intact
Designing supply chains to deliver these globally
Connect environmentally conscious customers