Mumbai-based Ecosac, which aims to be the ‘bag of India’, manufactures eco-friendly, reusable, and trendy bags that can replace plastic bags for shopping, travel, and other needs.
The cat has been out of the bag for a while now when it comes to plastic and the effect it has on the environment. Keen to do his bit and rid the world of single-use plastic bags, 50-year-old Anil G Chowta started Ecosac, a Mumbai-based company that manufactures eco-friendly, reusable bags.
Anil, a telecom engineer, earlier ran a business to manufacture telecom training kits comprising lab equipment for engineering students. But 23 years later, he handed over the business to his partners in 2013 to pursue his eco-friendly dream. Ecosac, founded in 2013 as Bag Forever, offers a range of “bags for life” – shopping bags, travel bags, sports bags, laundry bags, lunch bags, and multi-utility bags.
“Any person who uses plastic shopping bags is our customer. Our goal, as a company, is to reach every household. If it is a shopping bag, it has to be Ecosac, the bag of India. We want to support the government and people in acting on the plastic menace,” says Anil, the CEO and Founder of Ecosac. He rebranded his bootstrapped company as Ecosac in 2016.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Ecosac claims to be the first company to create a brand for reusable shopping bags. The bags are manufactured out of polyester fabric and have a Teflon coating; they’re durable, sturdy, washable, reusable, colourful, and trendy, Anil says.
The bags, which can last a minimum of three years, consume very little water and detergent while washing when compared to jute, canvas, or cotton bags.
Ecosac bags are priced between Rs 69 and Rs 149, depending on the size and features of the bag and come with a one-year warranty. Anil claims they are highly convenient and lightweight (40 grams per bag). “The bag can be folded and carried in a pocket as well,” he says
And unlike plastic bags that are trashed and add to the environmental clutter, Ecosac bags can be recycled at the end of their lifecycle. “They can be put to use to make cushion fillers, car carpets, jacket linings, etc.,” Anil says.
Ecosac bags are manufactured in Sholapur and Delhi; the manufacturing units are managed separately. The Ecosac team does the designing and customisation and sends the designs to these manufacturing units.
The initial challenges
Competing directly with plastic shopping bags freely available across all retail formats – kirana shops, cart vendors, and modern retailers – came with challenges. The other competition came from paper bags, low-cost cotton bags, and jute and canvas bags; these are often more expensive but less durable.
“In the initial years, it was difficult to convince shop owners to keep our reusable shopping bags. We had to sell a shopping bag against a free plastic bag,” Anil says.
But once customers realised the huge benefits and convenience of the Ecosac shopping bag, retailers found traction in sales. Anil says retailers have been extremely loyal since then.
“It was difficult but not impossible. Our focus was to change people’s habits, and this involved educating shop owners and end customers. The government’s ban on plastic shopping bags across almost 18 states of India has, in a way, vindicated and supported our cause,” Anil says.
Ecosac business model
A team of 20 people, Ecosac operates through general trade distribution channels, modern retail, corporate, and institutional sales. A B2B business, its main focus is on general trade distribution.
The startup also manufactures bags for corporates, but these are not made under the Ecosac brand. It sells its products at a discounted rate, depending on the size of the order, in such cases.
Predominantly focusing on Mumbai and Maharashtra till now, the company has also built a presence in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh.
“From being a product of latent need during its launch years, the company has witnessed a surge of almost 500 percent in the sale of utility bags. This has been after the Maharashtra government’s ban on plastic bags,” Anil says.
The company claims to have closed with a revenue of Rs 4 crore last year and Rs 7 crore currently. Bootstrapped with an investment of Rs 5-7 lakh, Ecosac aims to achieve Rs 100 crore revenue by 2022.
According to UN estimates, the world uses 500 billion plastic bags every year. Half of the total plastic used is single-use or disposable items such as grocery bags, cutlery, and straws. The Indian government plans to ban the use of plastic carry bags across the country completely by 2022.
Ecosac claims its differentiator, when compared to players who make non-plastic bags, is the material uses.
When asked about future plans for Ecosac, Anil says he wants to grow his network and brand across the country. “We want to enter chain stores, supermarkets, and modern trade, and eventually branch out into exports. We plan to expand to states where there is a ban on the use of plastic bags,” Anil says.