Palm leaves beat plastic
Athira P S’s venture, Palm Petals, has biodegradable dinnerware made of areca palm leaves. These products could be the next best alternative for the plastic in your life
Launching a venture is not an easy task. But with thorough market research and implementing changes in ideas, an entrepreneur can succeed in business. This is the formula that Athira, a mom and a fledgling entrepreneur, employed to see her business flourishing. “Last month alone, we sold around 80,000 pieces of dinnerware made of areca palm leaves,” says Athira, a resident of Kottayam.
Looking back, she says, “I wanted to start a business and was planning to begin one that involved making products using paper. However, after a study, I realised it didn’t have a wide market.”
So she turned to other ideas.“I came across reports about a plastic ban coming into effect from July. I thought why not come up with ideas regarding products that can replace plastic items,” she says.
Athira looked thoroughly into the possibilities and decided on making dinnerware using areca palm leaves.
“These products are not only biodegradable but give an aesthetic look to the dining table.”
She says the dinnerware can be reused a maximum of three times.
“I decided to study the manufacturing process of the dinnerware at a unit in Thrissur. I learnt the entire process -- right from processing the raw material to designing and die-cutting the leaves.”
She then returned to her hometown and launched her own unit. And she is delighted about the direction her venture is going in. Another interesting fact about Palm Petals is that it is operated fully by women.
“My unit employs five women, all of whom live nearby. I selected and trained these women who are now involved in everything, right from washing the palm leaves to using machinery and packaging,” says Athira.
She gets the palm leaves from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.“This is a lucrative business,” she says.
Palm Petals is getting orders not only from those in the catering industry but also from the posh resorts in the state.“Everyone is turning to biodegradable utensils. Even religious places like churches and temples are placing orders for plates, bowls and spoons made of areca palm leaves,” says Athira who also makes containers for companies producing organic soaps.
According to the entrepreneur, no chemical is used to give the utensils a finished look. Top-quality leaves give an excellent shine after being pressed into shape in the dies, she says. Athira’s unit has around 12 different shapes of dies.“Right now, I am looking forward to the plastic ban that will come into force from July Once that happens, the demand for our products will go up even more,” she said.
Though the business is booming, Athira is holding back for now to bring out more value-added products.
“For now, my five-month-old venture needs to slow down a bit. Maybe after some time time, like a year or so, I will go in for more value-added products,” she says.