Most of us wish to go green but are often daunted by the effort and time it demands. Green doesn’t have to be inconvenient, believes GreenTech Life, whose business model is to make green easy for urban folks. Their low maintenance rooftop organic gardens and Smartbins that replace kitchen dustbins and composters, are all dedicated to making eco-friendly living workable for busy lives. We catch up with Arijit Mitra to find out more:
How did Greentech Life start?
I was fed up with my corporate career. So I quit, without any idea of what I’d be doing next. During that time a vacuum was created which gave me the opportunity to see what is going on all around us in our environment. I realized that current forms of agriculture are the largest threat to our environment. I felt the need to create practical solutions to bring sustainability to cities. Most solutions today are either symbolic or require quite a bit of going out of one’s way. This is not easy in cities. I commenced research on growing food for cities in cities. 3.5 years later we had Rooftop Organics and 5 years later we had the Smartbins.
Tell us about the rooftop organic terrace garden.
Our Modular Organic Terrace Gardens need watering only once a month. Plus with these modules, any guess work required to grow food is completely eliminated. We provide planting charts which take into account companion planting, succession cropping, square feet gardening & lunar planting – all techniques aimed at improving the overall health of plants and hence the yield. They also eliminate the need for pesticides.
And the composter-dustbin?
Smartbins transform food waste into organic manure/fertilizer with extreme ease, simplicity and cleanliness. They come in two sizes, suitable for individual families living in apartments or houses and for institutions, apartment blocks, canteens etc. Even the simple act of carrying the food waste outside three times a day is eliminated since the bins stay right next to the kitchen sink, where food waste is generated. This makes segregation also very easy. Traditional composting generally requires some level of expertise. If not done correctly they attract, insects, foul smell, rodents etc. This is not the case with Smartbins.
Plus the products look good too! Aesthetics, and a smart, trendy look and feel was an important parameter during the design process.
How big is your team that helps you manage your business?
I am the only one right now. Manufacturing is outsourced and I occasionally hire help for odd jobs here and there. Being self funded meant running costs had to be low. These products are perhaps ahead of their time which means the business has to sustain till that ‘time’ comes. This is why it is all the more important to increase efficiency and keep the costs low. I had to learn and do almost everything myself. I knew nothing about composting, or growing food when I started. I also knew nothing about making websites or marketing. Had to learn all of it and do it myself. So I guess “entrepreneurship” is the only area of focus and “ability to learn and execute new things” the expertise. I was already good with systems and processes and managing teams/employees before I ventured out on my own. However the business hasn’t reached the scale where I can use those skills yet.
What standards or quality metrics do you follow?
This is where GreenTech Life differs from traditional businesses. We do not subscribe to certification by outside parties/agencies. A certification, or an award or a recommendation may boost up sales temporarily, but in the long run what matters is what and how customers feel. Our only measure of success will be how many people adopt this green way of life in the long run.
What do you feel your impact has been so far?
When one person adopts these products, or this way of life, others around him / her get inspired. You can’t really “sell” these products through traditional methods of selling. So it is too early to say what the impact is. I see these existing customers and the ones trickling in as ‘seeds’. Very difficult to predict the impact at this stage. Who knows later at some point we would reach a tipping point and the business will pick up momentum.
What kind of customers are interested in GreenTech life products?
Customers are usually middle and higher middle class, mostly above the age of 35 (after they have bought that car and that house). Prospective customers look for really cheap products. This being a new industry where solutions were do-it-yourself all these years, people have expectations about price. But the moment you offer the same thing as a service, there are costs that creep up which are far more than the raw material costs sometimes. These costs, prospective customers tend to overlook and reject outright. I see too many disappointments in people’s eyes and expressions when they hear the price for the first time. But before that they are thrilled by the product offering and design.
What have been your personal lessons in this journey?
Not sure you’ll be able to print this… but the most profound lesson I have learnt is the universal prayer of release and surrender: “F@#$ It!” – works every time!
How much do consumers value the sustainability aspect of your offerings as opposed to others?
Existing customers see the practicality and ease of it. Most of them are surprised why we are not selling more. To them the products seem a no-brainer. But others do not have the awareness these few people have.
What have been the most effective ways to reach out to and engage consumers?
That’s the catch 22. The most effective way as I mentioned earlier, is for consumers to see other consumers!
What have been your biggest challenges in this field?
The challenges, for which I am grateful (they made me feel alive and showed me what I was capable of doing), was everything. Like I said earlier, had to learn everything from scratch. Having one area of expertise is not a luxury I could afford. The other challenge, which I could gladly do without, was being self funded. Sometimes I had to wait for months to buy a PVC pipe for an experiment. Unlike other proven businesses, this being a business for the long haul, the initial lean period is very long. Working relentlessly with no sign of light at the end of the tunnel for such long periods has been the most painful part of this experience.
You can order GreenTech Life products on their website.
Author: Shreya Pareek for The Alternative.
The Alternative is an online media publication focused on sustainable living and social impact.