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In this interview with entrepreneur Preethi Sukumaran, she shares with us her initiative to make home products more sustainable, through Krya natural detergents.
Interview by Aparna Vedapuri Singh
In this interview, we meet Preethi Sukumaran, Co-Founder of Krya, a small business with big plans to help consumers go eco-friendly. Their first product is a soapberry detergent.
Aparna V.Singh (AVS): “Eco-friendly” is often seen in terms of end product, but your philosophy is on the entire process starting from sustainable business cards. How did you come to this philosophy?
Preethi Sukumaran (PS): Many times the footprint of the final product is the smallest part of the company’s overall footprint. In creating an “eco friendly product”, We might choose to import raw materials from faraway countries or travel often in a gas guzzling car, thereby undoing all the good environmental work that the final product can do, potentially.
A truly sustainable company HAS to measure the footprint of the sum total of ALL its activities and constantly work on improving its total ecological footprint.
This leads us to interesting, principle based decisions with sustainability at its heart:
– If a consumer lives next door to our home / office or on our way, we often drop off their detergent ourselves instead of sending it through our regular delivery partner – this ensures that our service is fast, and that no extra carbon is wasted while delivering our product.
– We publish free resource guides and e-books for consumers to make their own environmentally friendly products at home, using simple, available ingredients. These are formulations that we can commercialize ourselves, but we feel that in the larger interest of sustainability, it is okay for consumers to lighten their consumption and make their own products.
– We practice fair trade with all our partners – we offer the best rates for raw materials and manufacturing, and do not as a principle bargain on prices. This leads to better trust, better product quality, great service and a win-win deal for both us and our partners.
– We also choose to work with partners with high environmental integrity – this adds back to the environmental integrity of all our finished products.
Designing product formulations
– We design products with a high amount of environmental integrity as well. We never add cosmetic ingredients, like fragrances, unless they have real value to the consumer and make a difference in her experience.
– We proudly declare every single ingredient that goes into each product we create – this is ahead of government mandated standards in the categories we operate in.
AVS: From careers with conventional FMCG to a ‘sustainable goodies’ business – how did you prepare for it?
PS: We are very grateful for the wonderful training and values we learned in the companies we worked in, including gold standards in corporate governance, managing a brand P&L, building teams, developing new products from thin air, and a fine appreciation for effective brand building.
We built on these skills in the gap year we took before we started Krya, to research natural products, understand boot strapping a company better, read up on website design and usability, and creating great packaging.
This is our first time at everything in Krya and every single day throws up new opportunities to learn. At any point in time we are reading half a dozen books on everything, and finding, reading and subscribing to newer blogs. We also try and meet atleast one interesting, new person every week.
AVS: What have been some of the apprehensions from potential users? Is the average Indian urban user ready to go green when it comes to daily use products?
PS: When we started Krya, we thought of ourselves as a niche brand / offering. As we progress, I’m delighted to see how many varied consumers we get spanning age groups and life stages.
To give you some examples: Vegans love our products as we are a vegan company. We use no animal or animal derived ingredients in any of our products and do not test on animals.
Consumers with young children love our detergent because they are concerned about the effects a synthetic detergent can have on their children’s skin.
Consumers living in water scarce areas like Chennai like our detergent concept because it can help them re-purpose wash water.
Having said this, we do come across certain apprehensions.
The chief among them is credibility related. We are finding a certain amount of healthy cynicism among consumers for green products – they often find they are not as green as they are painted to be, or unable to justify their value in their lives.
It is great to see that consumers are looking for depth in brands and companies – this is a sign of a healthy and mature set of consumers who will (once you have proven yourself) reward you with a great deal of enthusiasm and loyalty, which is something we see at Krya.
AVS: Tell us a little about how the Krya detergent gets made.
PS: Krya is made on a small-in-spirit (actually large), certified organic, horticulture farm in A.P, near Ongole.
The soapberries are harvested every year around April. Once they mature, fully ripe fruits are plucked, they are sun dried on a large stone platform for 3 days.
Once they are sun dried, the fruits are de-seeded, and the seeds are stored for future planting.
The de-seeded fruits which are now hard, dry and brittle, are then powdered to our specification in the processing unit within the farm.
Once powdered, a small amount of calcium carbonate is mixed with the soapberry powder (3%) and then packed in the Krya packs.
AVS: How have you been getting the word about? Is it a challenge as a new business in a niche?
PS: Being an ethical, sustainable company, it is a challenge to build awareness for our brand, without using fear based or push based marketing methods or exploiting the insecurities of any particular group of consumers.
For example, our brand naturally attracts a lot of parents who want to use safe products on their children. Many, consumer segments are vulnerable to exploitative advertising today and parents are one of them. A parent today has to wade through a minefield of products that confuse and cajole them into buying them as an investment towards their child’s well-being.
This kind of marketing is something we do not do at Krya.
We try a lot of different things in Krya. We use several permission based methods of communicating with potential consumers like our blog, features by invitation (like this opportunity with Women’s Web), and our Facebook Page.
We have also tried blogger and expert review programmes. The most recent one which we did was to get a designer who works with handlooms and other Indian fabrics and prints to try out Krya.
The designer loved Krya so much that she blogged about it, and recommended it extensively.
We are constantly on the lookout for newer, refreshing and non-intrusive ways of connecting with our consumers.
AVS: What next? A little about your future plans.
PS: The products we create under Krya can be divided into 2 categories:.
– Green cleaners for the home :detergent, dish wash and floor cleaner
– Personal care : solid shampoo, bathing powder, natural talc and natural deodorant
This year, we are focusing on the range of products that help you clean your home in a natural and sustainable manner.
*Photo credit: Preethi Sukumaran
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