Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 4110
, Published on 09 February 2012
This is an analysis of the company with a unique business model, it creates varied products manufactured from paper obtained from elephant dung.This article contains a brief about the company, the costs involved in production and how the product is manufactured along with challenges faced by the company.
Paper from Elephant Dung – Is it true?
Recently, I came across a gift that my mother received. She was very excited to show it to me, At first glance it seemed like a simple diary but it was made very aesthetically with elephant’s rear side imprinted on the cover. I asked her why she was so excited to show me this diary. She told me that there was something special about this as the paper of the pages of this diary were made from Elephant’s dung.
I was puzzled with her statement and also taken aback slightly. But, then I tried to research on it and found out that there is a company by the name of Haathi Chaap – the brain child of Delhi-based entrepreneur Mahima Mehra and her business partner Vijendra Shekhawat, a handmade paper producer from Jaipur and while Sri Lanka, Thailand and Germany have been making paper from animal dung for years, it is a comparatively new trend in India.
Brief about Haathi Chaap:
It was started in 2003 on a loan of Rs.15, 000 when the duo Mehra and Shekhawat first started testing elephant dung, after stumbling upon hordes of fibrous dung near Jaipur’s Amber Fort. For four years, they exported their paper to Germany. A year ago, they launched it in India. It now has a turnover of over Rs 1 crore.
Their product categories range from bags to frames, photo albums, notebooks, stationery, cards and tags and other knick knacks such as coasters, bookmarks etc. The price range of these products is from Rs. 10 – Rs. 350.
Business Model of the company is based on rural manufacturing. The company gives work to Nomadic tribes in Rajasthan that own buffaloes and camels. They are given material, machines and money to make the products. This model helps them to fend for themselves and empowers them towards having a strong foothold in the society.
A machine set up for handmade paper costs around Rs.10-12 lakh, but the dung costs are as low as Rs.2 per kg or less.
Making of the product:
1. Collection of dung:
The dung is collected from various elephant stables. Sometimes, wheat and rice is bartered for dung by the duo from these stables.
2. Cleaning the dung:
The dung is washed thoroughly with water in large tanks. At the end, all what is left is the fibre. Since this process is water intensive, it is preferably done close to cultivated land, since the residue acts as fertilizer.
3. Cooking the Dung:
To get the fibre ready for the next stage of pulping, it is cooked in water for over 4-5 hours with salt and then washed with hydrogen peroxide to complete the first stage of making the paper bacteria free.
4. Sorting the dung:
After cooking, the water is drained out and the dung is left to dry out in the sun. Once it’s dry, it is sorted and any non-usable fibre is removed.
After the fibre has been softened and sorted, it goes into the Hollander Beater, to be beaten to pulp. This process takes about 4 hours and also the pulp is washed again. Disinfectant is added here to kill any bacteria still in the pulp.
6. Lifting the pulp
The pulp is then taken to cement/ wooden vats filled with water. Depending on the weight of the paper to be made, the required amount of pulp is mixed with the water. A flat sieve-like mould is used to lift a layer of pulp out of water. A sheet of paper is made.
The sheet is then placed on a muslin cloth by applying gentle pressure onto the mould. This process continues till there is a heap of about 100 sheets.
8. Drying the paper
The heap of interleaved sheets is then placed in a hydraulic press and compressed to drain out as much water as possible. The paper is then dried on lines, in a shady area.
Paper sheets are then calendered to make them smoother and writable. Calendering involves interleaving a bunch of sheets with zinc coated metal sheets and passing them under pressure, back and forth between two rollers.
Challenges before the Industry and how to address them:
Rajputs did not want to touch elephant’s poo; this was tackled by Mehra who told them doing this work would bring them close to Lord Ganesha. These laborers took to this but the coming generations or new laborers might not be attracted to such proposition. Thus, incentives need to be thought out for these workers like welfare schemes run in collaboration with government for these workers which can be microfinance schemes which help them migrate to becoming entrepreneurs in this field. Such incentives would help keep their interest alive in this industry
Competition from hand-made papers etc.; this can be tackled by gaining the first mover advantage and tying up with stores like FabIndia, studio showrooms of Bollywood stars among others, also online selling through flipkart, ebay etc. can be promoted. Another channel to be utilized is the selling to corporates and schools etc.
Government schemes like MNREGA which guarantee employment and money to the laborers; this has to be tackled by making them aware of the difference in incomes between the money earned by these schemes and by the perennial income in the poo paper making industry.
This article has been written by Vipul Bali from IIM Rohtak