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Monalisa Chanu: an ‘ eco-preneur ’

Monalisa Chanu: an ‘ eco-preneur ’
February 22
12:35 2020

Mumeninaz Zaman


People from Manipur are known for their zeal when it comes to the environment. Moreover the women are known for their valour, skills and participation in social, economic, political and cultural activities. One perfect example of such rare sort is a young girl or ‘Chanu’- as it is said in Manipur-  Ngangom  Monalisa  Chanu,  an environmentalist and eco-preneur who has ventured on a mission of giving back to the nature while providing employment opportunities for the local women, who often remains behind the closed doors, thereby giving them a reason to smile.

Every time we use a pen, we relentlessly discard it without giving a second thought about the pile of hazard we are contributing to. While we talk and write about plastic pollution, we tend to ignore the small things which we use in our daily life. Monalisa initiated her journey as an entrepreneur by manufacturing eco-friendly products like pen, pencil, paper and non-woven bags. Her love for nature and the desire to become an entrepreneur defying all odds saw the light of the day when she came up with her start-up firm Chanu Associates. The name of Monalisa’s products is ENVI which means environment under her brand name CHANU- which signifies the pressing issue of women empowerment.

Having studied in Chandigarh, the green and clean city inspired her to do something for her own state. On the other hand, back in Manipur she witnessed how people unaware of the bad effect of plastic use polythene bags and threw it everywhere in roads and markets which often block the drainage systems.

“While brainstorming how to start it all, I stumbled upon the idea of preparing paper bags, since paper is easily available in every household. But the hard part was creating awareness. People don’t care about the menace, they consider that plastic is cost effective compared to paper bags and blindly use it for their daily purpose. Then I switched to non-woven bags for its durability and demand in the market. I started it  all by  myself,  I linked up with few manufacturing units and ordered few materials in bulk, prepared the bags and while marketing the products I also created awareness among the public,” says Monalisa.

Later she came across a YouTube video where she saw the making of biodegradable pens. However, the technicalities used in the process were quite sophisticated and the materials used were not easily available. Working on the concept, Monalisa came up with her own idea where she incorporated her Midas touch. Monalisa explains, “The materials used are completely biodegradable, I make the pen and pencils with paper and insert seeds of vegetables, plants and herbs at the rear end or stub of the pencil or pen. Whenever one decides to discard it, they can plant it which in turn will give a new lease of life. We include a write up with our products which explain everything in details.” Monalisa is also planning and trying to replace the plastic refill with a biodegradable tube in the pen, she says, “We can’t always think of profit when it comes to the environment we are working on the mechanism of replacing the refill, however, it will need some time.”

When it comes to the use of the products it is also important to know who the consumers are. The bags are mostly used by adults while the pens and pencils are used by students as well as adults. “Giving awareness to the people, both adults and children about the habit of plantation is important. It is more about giving moral education. Along with the promotion and marketing of our products I go to schools and markets to sensitise people about the bad impacts of plastic in our environment,” informs Monalisa.

Earlier Monalisa used to work all alone, her family supported her for the work and together they continued. At present there are 12 all-women members in her unit. Initially, it was difficult for her to convince the women folks, but now they are happy to earn a decent living. Apart from the non woven bags her staff daily prepares 200 to 250 pens and 3000 to 4000 pencils per head.

Owing to the fact that the products could be amply used by everyone including the students, the pen and pencils are sold for 10 rupees each. Monalisa gets order for her products through phone, email and Facebook, where she has a good presence.

At the beginning she had to face a financial crunch, but that did not deter her from her motive. “There was a need for mass production and work space which I lacked. I had just 100 rupees, with which I brought some refills, glue and one or two equipments and used some waste papers to make the products. I took them to the market and slow and steady customers poured in, and I was able to create my own unit,” added Monalisa.

She approached the bank  for  a  loan,  but  they turned a deaf ear. In 2018 her efforts were recognized and she was nominated by the state government for the Manipur start up scheme. Following which her business flourished.

Monalisa’s  products  have  a  good   demand  in South India. While she plans to expand her  business, recently she has been approached by Self Help Groups from Tamil Nadu to operate as her franchisee all over South India.

“Being women we are always said that it will be difficult for us to work. Yes… I agree, we faced a lot of challenges, but as we cross the stage we keep moving forward, and the greatest achievement is learning to develop ideas, gaining experience and exploring our inbuilt skills. New ideas lead to new invention and this automatically inspires people. I don’t have a business background and by profession, I am an alternative medical practitioner, however, I did not give up and today it has been almost two and a half years of my entrepreneurship journey,” concludes Monalisa.


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