Money is not always the measuring unit for success of a start-up, but the idea is. There have been concepts that changed the society, one at a time, making it a better place. When our government is launching cleanliness awareness programmes, this story will make you wonder about what a small idea can do.
We introduce to you Anuradha Rao, founder of Bumpadum, a company that makes economical and high-quality cloth diaper, Her idea is that we can prevent sending over 1,500 kg of non-biodegradable toxic waste into landfills by replacing just one baby product.
Born and brought up in Bangalore, Anuradha completed her engineering and moved to the US, in 2013, to study MBA from Yale University. She started working as a strategy consultant in IBM, New York, and worked there for a year.
In 2014, Anuradha became a mother. “We had just moved back to India and I was still working for the US company. I was using disposable diapers for my daughter. But as days grew into months and months grew into years, the amount of disposable diapers she had used was huge,” says Anuradha.
Bangalore, like several Indian cities, has garbage issues, and it is mandatory to separate the wet, dry and sanitary waste. Anuradha realised that all the waste going out from the house was either compostable or recyclable whereas, only the wet waste, i.e. 10-12 diapers a day were going to the landfill. This really troubled her.
“I started looking for options. I did not want to opt for the traditional method of using cloth, as it makes the baby uncomfortable and causes a lot of mess. Many urban parents prefer using disposable diapers causing a dip un usage of cloth,” she says. Looking at the rate of usage of disposable diapers, Anuradha found out that each baby uses around 5,000-7,000 diapers in the first three years of his/her life, which comes up to 1.5 tons (1,500 kg) of toxic landfill waste from one baby.
“If you think about the number of babies we have in urban area, that is an insane amount of waste as everyone uses disposable diapers.”
Till date, there is no proper study done in India on this. Worldwide, disposable diapers are the second largest consumer items which is there in landfills. “I figured out that modern cloth diapers that are a product in the west are the best options that parents should opt for. The material used keeps the babies dry. Also, they are waterproof and fits perfectly,” Anuradha says.
She started looking up for that as a consumer. Surprisingly, there was nobody in India who manufactured modern cloth diaper. The products were imported either from China or the US. The Chinese products lack quality and costs around Rs 500-600, whereas the US products are of good quality but are terribly expensive, as one diaper costs around Rs 2,500.
That is how the idea was born. Anuradha quit her job to start Bumpadum, in July 2016, without any experience or contacts in the garment industry. It took her months of research to figure out how to go about it.
“I had moved from a strategy consultant to making diapers. When I handed my resignation to the higher management, I could not tell him that I am going to make diapers,” she giggles.
However, Anuradha wanted to spread the message that there is a better alternative. “I am sure that our children will thank us for that because if everyone in our generation will continue to use this, our children will have to face huge garbage problems. You can not demand everything from the authorities and need to make a start yourself.”
Anuradha did not have any external funding in the beginning. “Getting fabric manufacturers and other materials was still the easier part compared to getting a tailor. Finally, I found a tailor who was ready to work for me. We started from a room in my mom’s house where he would stitch our eco-friendly cloth diapers and I would look after the packaging,” she says.
Sometime later, she found out more people from the garment industry to get more tailors. Until last May, they were working at her mom’s place with three tailors and three machines.
Like every startup, Anuradha faced many challenges. “One of the challenges was customer education, both pre-sales and post-sales. We had to educate people about the cloth diapers as they had a wrong image about it. It took a lot of effort to convert that and make them understand that it is not that we are referring to,” she says.
It was difficult to make them understand that it is as easy to use as disposable diapers and you just have to dump the stuff in the toilet and wash the diaper. Bumpadum offers unlimited customer support through a customer service group on Facebook. “We have around 2,500 members and everybody acts as a support to other people. And that is how we solve the entire customer education part.”
Bumpadum launched sales last year and has been in business since. They primarily sell on their website and also have a small presence on Amazon. Today, they have close to 1,500 customers who have bought their diapers. Moreover, they have prevented about 3.5 lakh disposable diapers from entering the landfills so far, which amounts to 90,000 kgs of toxic landfill waste!
Currently, they have seven tailors and have moved to a larger place. “I have moved from the packing part and look after the marketing and sales and supply chain, whereas all the tailors manage the production side. I now have a friend of mine who is the director of the company and we run it together.”
“There is a very famous saying, “If Christopher Columbus wore disposable diapers, they would still be here today. According to research, it takes around 500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose. It really hits you hard about and we need to make better choices,” she concludes.
Share this with someone who cares about our planet, our environment.