Yash Papers, a Faizabad-based paper manufacturing setup recently launched CHUK, (pronounced chuck, like the English word) an environment friendly tableware made of sugarcane byproduct. The brand name came due to a similarity with the English word chuck, the hindi word ‘to taste’ (chakh), Punjabi for lift and Marathi for sacrifice. An interview with the MD and strategy head, Mr Ved Krishna.
1. Tell us about when and how you decided to eliminate usage of more than 15,000 tonnes of plastic from India, how did you start? What drove you forward?
“We were troubled by the fact that most of the paper used in packaging, especially food is plastic-coated, laminated or covered in cellophane which is harmful for the environment.
After joining Yash Papers Ltd. in 1999, we wanted to foray into specialised products but wanted to contribute to the society at large. Observing the damage done to the environment due to the increased use of plastic and Styrofoam, we decided to build a movement towards environmental sustainability with CHUK. We envision it to be a game changer in the years to come.
CHUK produces an innovative range of compostable tableware products which are untreated with any kind of chemicals. While plastic takes more than 500 years to decompose, CHUK’s tableware products are made from sugarcane fibre (bagasse) which decomposes just within 60 days.”
- What is the business model of CHUK?
“We have the world’s fastest, biggest and fully automatic machines producing around 1 million pieces per day. But to cause a dent in the pile of plastic, we need to rapidly multiply this. As of now, we have been focusing on the B2B segment for sales like Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs), institutions and caterers. However, we have also been overwhelmed by the demand from individual consumers.
We are also looking at tie-ups with leading e-commerce platforms and retailers in near future.”
- How is CHUK planning to tap the tableware market in India, which is dominated by Styrofoam and plastic?
“We are all set to compete with plastic and Styrofoam based products which are cheap, hence easily available. The market size for disposables in India is huge. CHUK is planning to tap 20% of the market size, not just by replacing plastic and styrofoam disposables but also by reducing the usage of plastic tableware which is washable.
Apart from QSRs/ food chains and e-commerce platforms, we are also looking at tying up with various state governments for eliminating plastic with eco-friendly tableware.”
- Strategies devised by you to create a market pull for biodegradable tableware?
“We truly believe that children, the younger generation have a big role to play in influencing behaviour change even in adults. Children are the change makers of tomorrow. So we will be running awareness programs in schools pan India involving students, parents and teachers and contributing towards a healthier planet. We are constantly working towards our aim of building a better future.”
- What are some of the recent tie-ups with QSRs/food chains for CHUK’s tableware products?
“Various restaurant/ food chains which are high on awareness are coming on board with CHUK. We have tied up with various restaurant chains like Vaango, Hyderabad-based Paradise Biryani Group, Delhi-based Bittoo Tikka, and food delivery company Foodpanda so that it can recommend CHUK’s tableware products to other partner restaurants.
Lite Bite, Haldirams, Chai Point, Baker Street & Fresco Airports and Food Courts have also come on board with CHUK.“
- High-end design to create lego based compostable materials and how it will benefit consumers:
“After studying the food consumption patterns in our country extensively, we aimed at creating modular designs which, along with being bio-degradable, are very consumer friendly. The products are like Lego pieces which can fit into any form of tableware product. We have also worked on a rapid development cycle for products based on 3D printing and quick tooling.
While Styrofoam tableware products are white due to chemical treatment, CHUK’s tableware products are brown coloured as they completely chemical free. Sugarcane fibre makes the tableware products lightweight, flexible, microwavable and leak-proof, the design has been conceptualized keeping in mind the Indian market.”
- India’s environmental status quo via-a-via global parameters:
“As per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report in 2014-15, 51.4 million tonnes of solid waste was generated in the country, out of which 91% was collected, and 27% was treated and remaining 73% was disposed of at dump sites in India.
According to The World Economic Forum study done on plastic pollution, if plastic pollution continues to rise then oceans will have more plastics than fish by 2050. India’s contribution to plastic waste that is dumped into the world’s oceans every year is a massive 60%.”
- Ways in which CHUK will benefit the people, its impact on people from different facets of society?
“By using Chuk, people are not only contributing towards a healthier planet but they are also making sure that their families eat safely. As Chuk’s tableware products are made up of sugarcane fibre it is completely natural, non-toxic and free from carcinogens. At Chuk, we believe in giving equal opportunity to all and thus our workforce consists of 50% women.”
- Product manufacturing costs, current impact on the environment based on numbers? (Distribution scale, units sold, etc.)
“At present, Chuk has a manufacturing capacity of a million pieces a day and each product piece’s price range from Rs.1 to Rs.7. We are not selling cheaper than plastic or Styrofoam because we need to make up for the production costs incurred but we are still at an affordable rate. That said we also like to point out that to the fact that using cheap plastic and Styrofoam or even melamine today increases your chances of spending a lot more on medical expenses later on in life. Switching to non-toxic tableware that is hardly a rupee or two higher than the cheaper ones will save one from that cost.”
“22.5 million People ate safely between January 2018 till now because of Chuk (units sold till now are: 22575000). 308 tonnes of plastic didn’t go to the landfill because of Chuk (307.755 tonnes of bagasse was dumped instead – good garbage) “
Our distribution scale is Pan India.