Ved Krishna, Vice-Chairman of YashPakka Limited, talks of his company’s initiatives to create sustainable packaging solutions for a cleaner planet and the challenges ahead before the Government ban on single-use plastic items comes into effect from July 1, 2022
What made you shift the company’s focus from a speciality grade paper manufacturer called Yash Papers to compostable packaging solutions provider YashPakka in 2019? How has it evolved since then?
In life, most of our awakening happens when we are going through a tough time. Between 2007 and 2012, when we were struggling financially, we fielded suppliers’ calls and we didn’t know whether we would survive the next day. Then I realized that I had joined the business because my father needed help. It was never a calling. My wife would ask me that if there were no barriers, if there was nothing stopping me, what would I do… and each time it would come out very clearly that I would do something to do with nature, to serve the planet. And then I met one of my mentors in Kolkata. He told me to drop everything and go and meditate in the Himalayas for the next year and find my calling, but also said ‘ultimately, the pot of gold is hidden where you are. You should build on that.’ I realized that all we were doing was packaging, but we had no control over usage of our products. That was the turning point. We started exploring how would we look at changing the non-compostable, non-biodegradable bags, how do we bring in better technology, how do we create alternatives for products like potato chips bags, multi-layered packaging and laminates which cannot be recycled. We are close to solutions there. We started moving towards pulp moulding and taking our paper business more and more towards higher strength and water-resistant material for bags. Today, the company manufactures packaging paper, moulded food service products and value-added products from sugarcane waste (agri-residue bagasse) which is locally sourced and pulped by us. We are working with various companies across the world.
Your business is based in Ayodhya. Does it pose a challenge? Give us a sense of the scale of your current operations, key markets and the kind of clients you work with, and also the USP of your products over competition.
In our pipeline, we work the agricultural waste to make compostable packaging. In the process, comes creativity and innovation. The most interesting agricultural waste we found was sugarcane waste, and Ayodhya is a good location for that. Not only do we produce everything through agricultural waste, we also are off-grid. We produce our own electricity completely by using agricultural waste. Of course, we have offices in Delhi and Bangalore. We supply paper for conversion to bags to customers like Starbucks, KFC, Café Coffee Day. Even things like soap and most surgical gloves and syringe bags in the country are packed in our paper. On the moulded products side, our clients are companies like Haldiram, Chai Point - mainly QSRs and institutions. We are 80-90% based on bags and paper, and 10-20% based on moulded products. We also create value added products like trays, using our own sugarcane waste.
If you were to talk about one USP of your products over your competition, what would that be? How has your compostable tableware products range ‘Chuk’ fared?
Our USP is that every product that we make has to be home compostable. There are biodegradable products, which may or may not be good for the soil. There are compostable products, which will compost not necessarily in the natural environment, but will be beneficial to the soil. The third variety is home-compostable products which you can throw anywhere, and it will compost as long as it is in nature and micro-organisms are acting on it. So, we only make home compostable products.
Coming to Chuk, I think the USP is particularly on the design side. We have paid a lot of attention to make products easy to use. And of course, you can put them out along with your wet waste, and it will become manure and compost in no time.
What is the overall response to sustainable packaging solutions in the market?
Awareness is growing. A lot of people are keen on shifting to sustainable packaging as there is a Government ban that comes into effect from July 1, 2022. The great thing that happens with bans is that the speed of innovation goes up to find solutions. But people are used to a certain convenience, and that convenience has to be replicated. The challenge is that we have to find a way to get sustainable packaging at a price point that people are used to. We have to constantly innovate, find ways to reduce the cost. The ban needs to be comprehensive, the collection systems, the composting systems have to improve. But people will shift really fast. They will come out with more innovations and there will be a healthier dose of products in the market.
Going forward, what are your ambitions for the company in terms of growth, diversification and expansion? What challenges do you foresee in your path?
Our plan is to be totally focused on compostable packaging and the three domains that we mentioned. We are at about Rs 300 crore right now. We are targeting Rs 1500 crore by the year 2025, and working on the roadmap for that. We're looking at possibilities of producing more types of agricultural waste. We've also started building a platform to help other compostable packaging producers, in terms of innovation, funding, technology, etc. The idea is to build better products at an even better price point.
What is one principle that guides all your actions?
From the time I wake up to the time I sleep, I’m only thinking about how we can serve the planet better through compostable packaging.
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