A sustainable business card

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Srini and I have been business card-less for the last 2 years. Printing a business card is not very environmentally friendly for some reasons.

  1. When you go to a printer, they print only a minimum of 200 cards or more. With so many cards you have to force them down family and friends or they are not used for a long time. By which time some important detail in the card like a phone number could have changed.
  2. Regular card printers work only with fully bleached virgin paper and not with any manner of recycled paper.
  3. We are Krya – we believe in saving paper and the environment before bedtime, and a standard issue business card just doesn’t say that.

Moreover being card-less has been interesting. Telling an associate / friend why it is not environmentally unfriendly has led to interesting conversations.

But a business card also is very useful, especially for a young company starting life.

So here is our take on business cards

  1. We printed our cards ourselves – off our office printer. That way we printed only as much as required.
  2. We used a single colour, black for our cards. As we’ve said before, the more the number of colours on paper, the harder it becomes to recycle. Black is also the cheapest, and easiest to produce colour for the environment.
  3. We do not laminate our cards. Lamination is an energy intensive process, and it puts a thin, un-reusable film of plastic on paper, that makes the paper very hard to recycle.
  4. We used tree-free paper for our cards – Our paper is made from cotton waste and not by cutting trees.

This is how it looks.

Krya sustainable business card

There’s one more change we will make now. (And hey it is easy to make because we design and print it ourselves).

We will create a joint business card – because that is even more sustainable than printing 2 separate cards. And because we are a creative partnership – and nothing says that more than a joint business card.

Upping the ante

To get to the bleeding edge of thoughtful business card design, we will also partner with a friend to make our cards Braille enabled.

What is a Braille enabled card?

Nidhi’s Organisation Esha, has trained visually challenged professionals who make your business card Braille friendly. They use a brailler, which is a special machine for the blind, that resembles and woks like a typewriter.

Using this typewriter they Braille emboss your card with your name and perhaps the name of your organisation.

This is how a Braille embossed card would look:

Why are we getting a Braille enabled card?

  1. Our card makes a distinctive statement about who we are and not just what we do
  2. It will delight a visually challenged person who will finally be able to read for him/herself our names and what we do.
  3. The money made on the cards goes directly to the visually challenged professionals working on our card.
  4. It costs an absurd 1Re per card. Esha takes orders for any number of business cards.

By having braille-enabled cards, we are looking forward to getting this done as every little detail about the card says something about who we really are.

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The R4 philosophy

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Do I have to work hard to be sustainable? This is the question that people have been asking since the dawn of time or in my case for the last few years.

The short answer: it depends

The long answer: it depends on your frame of mind. With the right frame of mind, clearly fixed on the big picture, sustainability is effortless. The right frame is like the difference between the special theory of relativity and the general theory of relativity.

The 3 Rs of sustainability

When I use the word sustainability, I am trying to compress a massive amount of meaning into one word. One frame to define sustainability is: use resources thoughtfully in the present moment in order to have an endless supply cycle of high quality resources.

The holy grail of sustainability is the 3 R framework, to wit

  1. Reduce
  2. Reuse
  3. Recycle

The order of the 3-Rs are very important, they are in the descending order of preference. The most important goal is to Reduce; think carefully about our consumption of resources and reduce sensibly.

The next R is Reuse, which means once something has been produced, it is a resource when reused, reduces the load on further production.

If all else fails, recycling is also a noble option. When we recycle, for example an old cell phone, we can extract a fraction of the original resource. That is better than just trashing the old cell phone to a landfill.

The 4th R : Replace

This brings me back to my original question: Is sustainability hard work?

Not if one takes care of the basics; which is having fun and enjoying the process. As things stand today, sustainability is vaguely about the environment and about saving the planet in some distant future. There is no accounting for individuals having sustainable fun right here right now.

This is an important reason why it is difficult for most of us to start taking any action on the 3 R framework however well we may understand it in theory.

Which brings me to my 4th R: Replace

Start with replacing things that are important to you on an immediate daily basis with more sustainable choices which surprisingly are also more fun & the other 3-Rs will soon fall into place.

For example I have known for some time now that regular coffee is grown on unsustainable plantations with absurd pesticide levels and often dubious labour practices. I have replaced that with fantastic shade grown, organic, fair trade coffee from a farm close to my city. And it has made all the difference. I have a unique coffee experience everyday & I know that my coffee is great for me, the environment and the coffee growers.

All I did was replace the old product with a sustainable alternative to make an immediate, direct contribution. And I am quite happy to pay about 4x the cost of regular coffee.

This single act of replace is a great starting place to start thinking about the other 3-Rs. Suddenly remembering to carry a bag every time you step out to the store (Reuse) is not so much a bother, nor is it about some vague benefit in the distant future.

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Why bio-degradable is not enough

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Quite often in our research on sustainability, we learn something that makes us sit-up.

We usually accept that it is awesome for a product to be bio-degradable and leave it at that. However when you pull at the thread of bio-degradability to follow it to the very end, you get a different picture.

So to begin, what is bio-degradability?

Bio-degradable matter is organic material with plant or animal origin. They can be broken down into simpler compounds by microorganisms (like bacteria) and they return to nature in a short period of time. For example wood & cotton are bio-degradable. Regular plastic is not.

The key phrase here is “return to nature”. That is, these bio-degradable materials can be re-used by nature to create new living organisms.

Enter Landfills

Human activity generates waste. Daily.

Waste falls in two categories. The solid waste, that goes straight into the dustbin. Then there is the liquid waste handled by the sewage system.

The solid waste goes from your dustbin to a dumping ground in the city called a “landfill”. Unless special, prior segregation is done, all types of waste get mixed up at the landfill. Plastic, food waste, paper, construction debris all become one massive pile at the landfill.

This means that bio-degradable waste anywhere below the top surface of the landfill has no access to light or oxygen. Unfortunately for bacteria to work their magic on most bio-degradable matter, they need light and oxygen.

This means that nothing happens to the bio-degradable matter at the landfill. The lack of light and oxygen will preserve them perfectly like mummies for eternity.

This is the crux of the post. Bio-degradability is potentially good. But it needs an effort to be converted to actual good.

A few numbers from our city

To further illustrate the point about bio-degradability, here are some numbers from the Chennai corporation

  1. Solid waste generated – 500 gm per person daily
  2. Total solid waste generated – 3200 tons daily
  3. Total area used as landfills – 550 acres in Chennai city (24 million square feet)
  4. Life expectancy of landfills – The year 2015

I was aghast that on average I am responsible for nearly 200 kg of solid waste per year. Also, 24 million square feet of perfectly good residential area are used as landfills. And in 4 years from now new landfills will be required.

Solutions

At the highest level, the solutions to handle solid waste are to not create solid waste. This means

  1. Reduce consumption
  2. Reuse stuff. Like reusing plastic bags.

In our case we carry our own bags every time we go to the store.

Once solid waste is generated, the options are recycling and composting

3. Recycling

Recycling is a terrific solution because it works at source, i.e. our home or office where the solid waste is generated to begin with. By recycling materials like paper, certain plastics we can prevent waste from entering the landfill in the first place.

For example, we recently bought office supplies that came in several corrugated cartons.

cartons for recycling

A few years ago I would have thrown them into the dustbin.  Now these cartons will be sent for recycling just like old newspapers

4. Composting

Compost is the natural end point of bio-degradable matter. In other words after the biodegradable matter has been broken down by micro-organisms we get compost, which is a great soil fertilizer and the pillar of organic farming.

Plain vanilla composting is just burying food waste in the garden. A year later the local earthworms and micro-organisms will convert it to compost.

Home composting is a massive step to help reduce the city’s load on solid waste management and reduces the need to create new landfills. More on that later.

To conclude, bio-degradable is good, and with some waste management effort it becomes great.

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Trendspotting 2011.

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It is always a good time to be trendspotting but the first week of the New Year is the best. I came across this useful presentation on the top 100 trends for 2011 put together by the creative house, JWT.

I was surprised by the large percentage of trends circling back to the space of sustainability, green, environment, carbon footprint & overall treading lightly

My top picks from the presentation

  1. Facebook e- commerce. Self explanatory.
  2. Self powering devices. Powered by the user interaction. Check this remote from Microsoft.
  3. QR codes. 2-D barcodes that can be scanned by mobile devices.

krya.in QR code

This is the QR code for www.krya.in

4. Non printable PDF format. From the big black panda at WWF. Saves the file with .wwf extension.

5.A restaurant menu with the carbon footprint equivalent of each item.

Here is the original presentation from JWT.

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Sustainable by Design – To liquid or not to liquid

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At Krya, sustainability, usability and beauty are the three core principles of product design.

Sustainability forces constraints, as many cheap & easily available materials and processes are ruled out. But that’s okay, because it is difficult to design it into a product retrospectively.

At Krya we think about sustainable design at 6 stages

  1. Product design: ingredients, format, packaging.
  2. Raw material sources and their transport
  3. Manufacturing process
  4. Transport to consumer
  5. Consumer in use method
  6. Post consumer use disposal

At every stage of a product’s life cycle no decision is too small to be ignored. And each decision has to balance sustainability with usability for the consumers. Take for instance, the choice of product format.

Product format: To liquid or not to liquid?

Whether a product is a solid, liquid or somewhere in the continuum between plays an important role in determining a product’s sustainability.

It turns out that liquid products and sustainability just don’t mix.

Here’s why:

  1. Liquids = complex, resource intensive manufacturing
  2. Liquids often imply effluents
  3. The addition of water into a product requires a clean , antiseptic environment
  4. The addition of water also means possible bacterial contamination so preservatives are a must in the end product
  5. Liquids need tough containers – So hello plastic, goodbye paper
  6. Liquids are expensive to transport – they are voluminous, need special storage, & can be easily damaged

At Krya, we have made the decision to choose a solid format over a liquid format every time.

This commitment extends to our personal life as well. We have eliminated many liquid products like face wash, shampoo and conditioners. We have created organic, natural, fantastic powder alternatives to these categories.

Choosing a solid format over a liquid format can make a huge difference to the environment.

All it needs is an open mind.

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What we do @ Krya

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We’ve taken our time over describing what we do. The first time we encountered this was while incorporating our company. (Srini’s post yesterday talked about how we incorporated our LLP.)

One of the things the LLP office makes you do is to define what you do, and add that to your company’s name. So if you are Ram who makes super-cool financial management software , your company’s name could read Ram Financial Management Software Products LLP.

What you can’t do is call yourself Ram’s Super Cool Financial Management Software Products LLP.  Adjectives, and Superlatives are frowned on by the LLP office.

We wanted to call ourselves Krya Awesome Products LLP. But the LLP office, rightly found “Awesome Products” to be vague, and non-intuitive to the public at large.

So after a lot of back and forth, we decided to name ourselves Krya Consumer Products LLP.

But when we wrote to our first consumer sometime back, describing what we make, ‘consumer products’ didn’t quite begin to describe what we do.

What we do make is environmentally friendly, low carbon footprint, natural products that are easy and effective to use, and help you reduce your load on the earth and yourself.

That was too much of a mouthful for our first consumer – though she did her best to stay awake through that.

Which is when we came up with what we actually do.

We create sustainable goodies.

That are sustainably  & fairly produced from farm to pack, and are responsibly packaged and sold by Us to You.

We hold ourselves accountable to how our sustainable goodies are used and disposed, and design packaging that is both easy to recycle & holds value to the recycling system (more on that later).

We are easy and fun to work with, and respect the people who work with us, and value their point of view.

We take You very seriously, and work hard to create sustainable goodies and a wonderful consumer experience.

And that’s what we do…

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It is a great time to start a business

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We have recently incorporated two businesses, one of them obviously is Krya and another one which will also go live shortly (more on that later).

The process of incorporating our ventures has been very instructive. It also brought us back into close contact with several government agencies that regulate the process. For several years we have been insulated from interactions with the government (save the occasional passport renewal). We decided to enter every single interaction with an open mind and have been rewarded with pleasant transactions; which means that we can focus on the core job of creating our brand.

For this piece I will focus on our company structure

Traditional business vehicles

In India the vehicles available hitherto fall into two groups

  1. Partnership & Sole Proprietorship
  2. Private limited company & limited company

The fundamental difference between the two groups lies in the creation of a separate legal entity,”the company” in the case of the second group. This legal entity has distinct identity of its own which is separate from that of its founders/owners. For the owners part their liability is limited to the extent of the capital contributed to the formation of the company. In the case of the first group i.e. partnership & sole proprietorship, the firm has no identity of its own. All liabilities due to the firm are automatically due to the partners/proprietor.

In addition, partnership & sole proprietorship have several restrictions on raising capital and cannot issue shares to the public through IPO etc. Of course this means that companies have high start-up costs, tougher compliance and regulatory norms.

Enter Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP)

The limited liability partnership (LLP) act 2008 offers a great solution to bridge the gap between the two traditional business vehicles by combining their key features. The key features are

  1. Creation of a separate legal entity , “XYZ LLP”
  2. Low start-up capital & government fees
  3. Simplified compliance norms.

For example there is no specified minimum start-up capital, returns need to be filed only annually and LLPs with annual turnover under Rs 4 Million do not have to audit their accounts.

Moreover for a LLP with 2 partners & with start-up capital under Rs 1 lakh the total incorporation fee is just Rs 1000! This is very reasonable considering the cost of a digital signature token with two year validity is Rs 2500.

To top it all, the entire process of incorporating an LLP is done online with documents being scanned and uploaded with a digital signature. Of course the digital signature needs be verified by an accountant in practise whose charges are extra.

LLPs are a standard business vehicle in many countries across the world and a common perception is that they can only be used by services like lawyers or accountants. However the LLP act clearly stipulates that any two people starting a legal business to create profit can incorporate an LLP.

The only difficulty we faced in incorporating Krya Consumer Products LLP was in reservation of the company name. There are some guidelines laid down by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs that were difficult to understand at first, and I will address that in a separate post.

At Krya we are very excited about starting a business right now in India. Everyone we have talked to has been thrilled about the idea of starting a business with sustainability as a core value.

The availability of a hard working, flexible business vehicle like an LLP is yet another reason why it is a great time to start a business.

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