This article is available in French on our partner’s website, Ecoloinfo.
We met Rohit Nayak, co-founder of Ecoad, in a very nice restaurant in Pune, where he helped us choose the best and most delicious local dishes. Then followed him to a local café where he knew the menu by heart, advising us “wisely” to go for the best and most dangerous dessert we’d had in weeks.
But local food is not the only specialty that Rohit is interested in! His main concern these last past months is much more serious: to help small, local businesses in their struggle against big brands by giving them more visibility right in the hands of their customers.
Rohit invented an innovative business model that both helps boost the local economy and tackles ecological and social issues: Ecoad enables local businesses like bakeries, saloons, hairdressers… to place ads on paper bags made of recycled newspapers, that are distributed in small retail shops like drugstores – there are many, many of these shops on every street of every Indian city.
The first impact is ecological: everyone knows that plastic bags harm the environment, and it only takes a short trip to the outskirts of any Indian city to see the damages of plastic waste on the land. But paper bags are actually equally bad, as producing them implies cutting trees, using chemicals to change the color and huge amounts of water. The only sustainable solution is to produce bags made of recycled paper out of old newspaper for example.
Most often, retail shops in India buy and hand out plastic bags to their customers because they are much cheaper than the ones made of paper… not to mention recycled paper. To make it affordable and environmentally friendly, Ecoad has partnered with an organization that works with 60 underprivileged women in slums and villages who produce different types of recycled paper bags. Ecoad thus buys directly to them the strong, high-quality, manufactured bags made of recycled newspaper that they ordered, and provides them with jobs and a good salary – each woman earns an average of 3000 roupies per month thanks to this organization. Here is the second impact of Ecoad: social development.
But the true innovation – and the third impact – lies in the small space that Rohit and his co-founder decided to dedicate to advertisements on each of their recycled paper bag. They give the opportunity to small businesses to buy this space and place ads or special offers in order to gain visibility among local consumers and reach more people directly in their shopping routine. Local businesses can chose which shop they want their ad in, which enables them to highly target their customers.
Putting ads in the form of discounts or coupons is an efficient way of pushing the client to pay more attention to it, but most importantly to assess the impact of the whole operation, because the client has to bring the bag back to the local business to benefit from the promotion. This also enables Ecoad to use some of the bags again and give a third life to the paper.
Ecoad, which is part of UnLtd India since 2012, is still at a pilot stage in a specific, quite wealthy area of Pune, where customers are educated people with a good buying capacity.
But Rohit is a very ambitious young man: passionate about his work and eager to fight for the environment, his plan is to create a community of environmentally conscious people and companies in India, where members could provide and be provided with products and services offering eco-friendly solutions. Let’s all wish him luck!