This woman entrepreneur startup offers sustainable fashion accessories made from pineapple and cactus leaves
Arundhati Kumar – Founder of Beej
Sustainability is at the heart of, a brand founded by Arundhati Kumar in the field of accessories. The founder believes style and durability can and should coexist, and it is important to be aware, attentive and responsible even when no one is looking.
âSustainability is not a simple action or a simple talk for us at Beej, but a filter that we apply to each decision, âSays Arundhati as she presents her brand which connects creativity, ethical practices and conscious fashion seamlessly to make sustainable fashion mainstream.
Arundhati comes from a family of entrepreneurs, one of the oldest leather export houses in Calcutta. She graduated from Dame Shriram College, Delhi, followed by an MBA from Front School, Delhi.
Arundhati’s first corporate stint took place in 2014, when she launched a brand of personalized accessories in the company of a colleague.
âMy daughter was very young at the time and I realized I was spending at least 20 days a month away from home which was not working for her. I decided to take a break and returned to corporate life, joining Conde Nast India as the Human Resources Manager. As they say, once bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, it’s hard to let go. A few years later, I found myself wanting to start my own business again, she recalls.
The effects of climate change
She decided to quit and take a break for a few months before deciding what to do next. Around the same time, she was on vacation in Europe and was caught in the middle of a scorching heat wave.
“It was the moment I realized that climate change is real and it’s already here. In recent years, I have been increasingly aware and concerned about the climate crisis and what is happening around us. This started with small lifestyle changes. At home, we moved away from single-use plastics, started using drip irrigation to water my plants, became more aware of my purchasing habits, etc. “, she says.
She came back with a clear plan and intention to work in the sustainability space. Accessories and bags have always been an area of ââinterest, so Arundhati decided to merge the two.
During his research, the entrepreneur realized that while there were any brands in India that worked with vegan leather, in most cases it was faux leather made from PVC – not at all respectful of the environment.
âThis is the void I wanted to fill. Beej is India’s first premium sustainable accessories brand with a mission to make sustainability a mainstream fashion choice.. I set up my studio in Mumbai because that’s where I live. Our products, including packaging, are designed and manufactured in our workshop. We are currently retailing online through our own store as well as through several platform partners“, says Arundhati.
From the bosom of nature
Beej chooses Pinatex (made from pineapple leaves), cork, Desserto (cactus leather) – all plant-based materials, recyclable and partially or completely biodegradable. The linings on the accessories are materials made from post-consumer recycled yarn while the zippers are made from recycled PET. The brand does not use metallic logos and instead embroider / emboss logos to reduce material usage which can be difficult to recycle. All products are made to order as they seek to minimize waste.
Beej was launched on January 20, 2020 and made over 2.5 lakh rupees in the first two months, Arundhati said.
âUnfortunately for us, just as we were gaining momentum, the studio had to close in March due to containment and we finally reopened in mid-June. Since then, although revenue is still muted, we have seen a steady increase in the number of visitors to our website and subscribers to our Instagram account. During the containment, we also worked on increase our presence in distribution and are now retail on two of India’s largest luxury fashion portals (Nykaa Boutique and Tata Indi-luxe) as well as smaller niche platforms that organize sustainable / independent labels like Brown life,” she says.
âFor the moment, Beej’s objective is twofold: build a distribution network both in India and around the world, and work on our product offerings. During containment, the team developed a range based on Khesh, a recycled hand-woven material from East India, which we will be launching on our website very soon with the global materials we work with, âshe adds.
Beej is currently bootstrap, with the founder investing Rs 30 lakh of her savings for studio space, machinery, equipment inventory, etc. he is also incubated by the NMIMS AIC as part of the Niti Aayog program.
Put more emphasis on sustainability
Arundhati with his team
The sustainable accessories startup is working on a multichannel revenue model, retailing through its online store and e-commerce partners. Another income channel is private labeling, in India and internationally.
The brand is currently in conversations with some great Indian designers to create a collection of sustainable accessories for them, as well as a few niche uniquely sustainable platforms through which he retail in the US and European markets.
Arundhati believes The fashion industry in India and the world is going through a major crisis and a sort of overhaul. In times to come, she said, we’ll see greater focus on sustainability, call for transparent supply chains, increased momentum for local crafts and, hopefully, a reduction in slow fashion consumption.
âOne of my main learnings as an entrepreneur was take nothing personally. At first I would be really upset if I contacted someone who didn’t respond or then refused to partner with us. I have seen several cases where the same people come back a few months later, wanting to partner up because now you have grown a little more, âsays Arundhati.