Carragreen is on a mission to save Earth from plastic pollution and global warming by making eco-friendly products. It is founded by the unique partnership and an ideal relationship of a mother-in-law, Chetna Shah and daughter-in-law, Surabhi Shah. They aim and believe in making Carragreen a profound company for eco-friendly products.
Carragreen became a popular name after being seen in Shark Tank India. They cracked a deal with Peyush Bansal (Co-Founder Lenskart), and Anupam Mittal (Founder shaadi.com) and were highly appreciated for their work.
Icy Tales in conversation with Surabhi Shah about the inspirational journey of Carragreen.
Q) Your company Carragreen, how did you come up with such an idea? What inspired you to develop your idea?
Surabhi Shah – Carragreen initially, when started, we wanted to make a product that reached the masses and protected the environment. That was the aim, even when the product was not decided, whether it would be packaging, stationery, or a spoon. We wanted to do something that could easily reach every house. There are people who want to do something for the planet, but there are no options.
For instance, if someone is hosting a party and wants to buy bio-degradable products, but they are costly or not readily available in the market. So to enter the eco-friendly market, we started with stationery – pens pencils because everyone uses them in the office, school, home, conferences, events, many stationery lovers. So there is a significant reach for that.
Initially, I was selected among the top 100 women entrepreneurs from more than 8000 women across India by IIM Bangalore. At that time, I had five ideas in mind, and then they helped me jot down to one with the coaching and training. Then they tell us to search for a partner, a co-founder. Then I thought, why not from home because there is a suitable wavelength, what I don’t know she knows. Technology I can handle, the customers and market demand she can handle very well; that’s her strength. So that way, her strengths and my strengths together is a good combination. And all this is not always formal, and ideas discussed informally also work out great for us.
Q) How important is it for people to understand the significance of sustainable goods? How can a company like Carragreen convince people to switch from goods that are harmful to the environment to eco-friendly products?
Surabhi Shah – Here, there are two significant factors. One is when we export products they see the quality. So well-maintained quality is an easy way to spread the word, is what we have understood. But in India, it is more about the cost. If I don’t match the price with the existing plastic or wood, it isn’t easy to reach the market or the masses. The second is variety.
So even when we buy a product, we always want something unique. So that is why we understood how the cost and working on our designs and continuously changing them with trends had worked well for us. When we started pencils and pens, some people were only newspaper in white. So we came up with colourful papers, tricolour and then we received good orders. Because everyone wants something different that they don’t have.
Q) What are all the challenges you faced while managing a company that concentrates on protecting nature and developing sustainable products?
Surabhi Shah – More than challenges, it was the learnings. Initially, it was about the certifications because we claim we are eco-friendly and use the correct raw materials. So making something eco-friendly, we need to ensure that our raw materials are also eco-friendly.
There are two types of cardboard; one is virgin and recycled. So the pure cardboard is made by cutting the tree. At the same time, we use recycled cardboard, which is an eco-friendly way of purchasing raw material. A tree is not cut for the cardboard. So these were the few learnings that the raw material we are using should also be eco-friendly. For example, if we are using ink to print, that should also be non-toxic; when we say we make spoons, we make them out of recycled cardboard. So these were some learnings that we came across as both of us weren’t much aware of the same.
Any big organization has many levels, not only Haldiram but, for that matter, any big brand like Zomato, Swiggy, Amul, or ITC. Haldiram was challenging, but we approached them by going to their restaurants and eating their products from our spoons, and then sending them samples, customizing samples for them. So this was an excellent convincing part from our end.
Q) What is your idea of success? What has been the most significant milestone in your journey so far?
Surabhi Shah – For me, success is more about satisfying the customers. Whenever we get good feedback, or a good product is made with a good design, all this pleases me. So when the Carrabox was made, that was a successful milestone for me. I was happy because whatever was in our head as an idea was completed with good design, and people also liked it. So there are three steps; one is the idea in your head, the second is when the idea is executed well, and the third is when we receive good feedback related to them.
Other milestones were awarded by the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, then IIM- Banglore happened and then Shark Tank. Shark Tank India was a massive milestone for us in terms of branding. The mother-in-law and daughter-in-law duo liked by India, selected from around 68,000 entries and approximately 60 were only funded; Carragreen was among them.
Q) Carragreen has a unique business idea. What advice would you give to someone trying to become an entrepreneur?
Surabhi Shah – More of learning from my end, I would advise. Secondly, if you have a great idea, don’t keep the idea just an idea; execute it without thinking much about the result. If the concept is in your head, don’t take much time to achieve it. Let it fail if it fails. If ten fail, the eleventh one will be a success. Failure shouldn’t be the scarier part, and it should be a learning milestone.
Because many people or entrepreneurs have so many ideas, every day is a new idea if you want to do something, but then the execution takes a lot of time, and then someone comes up with the same idea. Therefore the idea and implementation should be quick. Don’t let the thought stay with you; execute it.
Q) What sets you apart from other entrepreneurs? Any quality you describe for yourself that can set you and your company apart?
Surabhi Shah – For the company, I can say the product quality. Because there times, when people say reduce the cost, quality doesn’t matter. I don’t abide by that; we ensure our quality because we will also be looking for exports in the future. I think the partnership and relationship I share with my mother-in-law is my strength as I always wanted to make her join and keep her busy, and innovation and creativity shall be another.
Q) Who has been your constant support and pillar during all this time? Is there someone you look up to as an inspiration?
Surabhi Shah – It should be my father and grandfather. I am a third-generation entrepreneur coming from a business family. They didn’t have as many resources as in education or social media networks, but they still have reached a point where they inspire me.
They always tell me resources are one of the parts. Today we depend a lot on social media, having a good Instagram page, but there have been successful businesses even without the resources. So this is an inspiration for me that if these resources are not available, there is still a good chance that you can succeed if you satisfy your customers. Everybody in my family on both sides has been a great support.
Q) Lastly, you recently received an excellent investment opportunity and mentorship from Shark Tank India. Would you like to tell us something more about your plans ahead?
Surabhi Shah – Till now, we were only in food. Next, we plan to expand our horizons to innovative packaging for any product. Since Peyush Bansal (co-founder Lenskart) and Anupam Mittal (Founder of shaadi.com) have joined, they are both putting in ideas. So if it’s a Lenskart specs box, it can be made creatively and reused. We want to create packaging for any product which can be reused at least 80% of that box or packaging.
Carragreen is a company that looks forward to protecting the environment by making eco-friendly products that are the ultimate of the hour. Eco-preneuers Surabhi and Chetna Shah have been doing an excellent job as women entrepreneurs and setting a fantastic relationship goal of being partners in Carragreen.