Nivedita Mitra is a social entrepreneur and being an environment-conscious is doing her best by recycling products and resources into useful everyday stationery items. Her brand, Whatsup Bubbles, is an eco-friendly brand that thrives to make paper pencils an everyday commodity. Nivedita is a staunch supporter of using environmental-friendly products and is herself a rational consumer. She believes that little steps by each one of us can make a tremendous difference and help save the earth.
In talks with Storiyaan, Nivedita gives us an insight into the making and conception of her brand, gives tips on how to be a rational consumer, and the importance of using eco-friendly products. Continue reading this interview to know more.
Questions and answers
What motivated you to steer your career from the corporate world to that of an entrepreneurial one?
Like most people, I tend to talk to myself. Questions like why I was letting someone else put a price on my labour and imagination, if I was doing something different for the next phase of my life and whether I wanted to have a retirement age associated with my work, kept popping in the back of my mind. Answers to all of them were not satisfactory, so I decided to steer my career and take control of it.
What made you choose to create the products that you make?
One thing that was always clear to me was that my business needs to be ethical. Every product that exists, needs to be thought on the lines of its origin and exit. I chose to make a product from scrap newspapers which was efficient and contributed towards a circular economy. Also, I started my business without external monetary funding so I had to zero down on a product that I could fund and maintain, and this is how Whatsup Bubbles was created.
Have you always been an eco-conscious individual or did a particular event get you to embark upon your journey? Could you tell us a bit about it?
I have been taught from a very young age that natural resources are limited and should not be abused. An incident that deeply impacted me was my encounter with a waste management personnel whose job was to segregate waste collected from households. He told me that even though he wore gloves, his hands frequently got cut due to thrown away sharp stuff. I was frustrated to the core upon realising the ignorance of the people. Hence, I dove into the dynamics of the waste segregation system.
How did you first conceive of the idea to create recycled paper pencils and what do you believe is your USP?
Recycled products such as pencils are not new to the industry. We have seen paper pencils with seeds, paper pens. Such seed pencils have a plastic cover to hold the seeds, the paper pens have plastic refill inside them. So, I designed my product by eliminating the fancy aspects of it. The USP of Whatsup Bubbles recycled paper pencils are quite simple: they are non-toxic, made from hundred percent recycled newspaper are biodegradable, the packaging is appealing to both kids and adults, and the box is corrugated which can be stored and reused after the pencils are used or misplaced.
We usually see that eco-friendly or recycled products are expensive compared to virgin or brand-new products. Is there any particular reason for it?
Recycling is not just a matter of recovering recyclable material; it’s a total economic system. At present the cost of collecting and processing recyclable materials far outweighs their value as a commodity that can be sold back to the industry. Currently, the demand is less, so the supply is less and hence the high price. We need to support, believe, choose, and buy more recycled products to make them a common daily commodity.
How well or not is the Indian market is prepared for sustainable products?
The Indian market still has a long way to go in terms of buying sustainable products. We still think that buying an earth-friendly product is trendy and fashionable. But I see a lot of potential too as several business houses are introducing eco-friendly products and trying to increase awareness amongst the masses. There are individuals too who are extremely aware of the repercussions of not switching to a sustainable lifestyle.
What do you suggest will bring a difference in buyer behaviour that they start buying recycled products?
Education at a very tender age will bring a difference. In my case, schools are the largest consumer products such as pencils, paper, etc. We have all been using conventional wooden pencils. So, we are trained to believe that this is normal. We have never been insightful on how did that pencil land in our hands. We need to switch to a more sustainable and equally efficient alternative that is recycled paper pencils.
What do you do in your capacity to be an eco-warrior?
I have started making Whatsup Bubbles recycled paper pencils. In addition to that I switch off electrical appliances when not needed, I don’t use a shower for bathing, a bucket is sufficient for me. I am a conscious buyer. I make my own compost and above all, I try and make people aware to adapt to a sustainable lifestyle.
What would you say has been your greatest inspiration towards your journey with sustainability?
I would say setting up my business of Whatsup Bubbles has made me more driven towards this cause. It fills me with pride and joy when I see people buying my product from Amazon after reading about its features. They are choosing to buy eco-friendly products. That’s my biggest inspiration to make more such products and keep going.
Despite multiple attempts by the government and NGOs, we are yet to achieve an eco-friendly and conscious society. What in your opinion can be done to attain this?
We as individuals make a society, a community, an organizational entity, and ultimately, we are the government. Every household, parents, kids, elders need to be equally thoughtful and then we can become one eco-friendly and conscious society. To reduce, reuse and recycle is not only for textbooks. It’s a lifestyle. We all need to start living it sooner than later.
What message would you like to give to our readers?
Become a conscious buyer. Ask yourself questions like do you need that particular product and how it came into existence. What will happen to it once you are done using it? Be inquisitive in your life. Ask questions to learn not to critique.
a. One eco-warrior you feel inspired by? – Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese botanist and expert in plant ecology.
b. Your opinion on Greta Thunberg in one word? – Vocal
c. One quality every entrepreneur must inculcate if they are aiming for success? – Perseverance
d. Your first eco-friendly purchase? – Matka, I used to drink water out of it as a small child. I still have one at home
e. One thing that keeps you motivated at your work? -To make Whatsup Bubbles recycled paper pencils every household commodity.