RE-imagine Paper- January 2018
Entrepreneurialism and EnvoPap
Growing up in a business family in Pune, India, I was always inclined towards business, especially the international business development side of it. I graduated with an International Business degree and immediately decided to pursue higher studies. In my research, I came across the University of Southampton. The course and the teaching faculties were exactly what I was looking for.
I read articles written by Southampton academics Lisa Harris, Laura Costanzo and Pavan Tamwada in international journals during my graduation and found them very stimulating, and this was also a major influencing factor in me applying. The course, an MSc in Global Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, was a perfect fit for my plan to expand my family business to a global level.
Once the course started, there were plenty of activities that helped me grow as an entrepreneur. My fellow students shared a similar mind-set which made for a very conducive environment.
I immediately got involved in the entrepreneurship society, which was extremely active, and attended various other workshops that focused on business development. Through these activities, I started developing a clear understanding of today’s business culture, finance opportunities that could be helpful, ease of business and – most importantly – access to resources. Each of these facets was emphasised and taught in great detail, which turned out to be very helpful in the long run.
Going through the course, I started realising how every module was helping me develop various skills as an entrepreneur and giving me the confidence to become an entrepreneur and take up that sort of responsibility.
On completing the course, I decided to start a business right here in the United Kingdom. This was the time I knew I could go ahead with my plan of expanding the family business and bringing it to the international market. EnvoPap came into being and thus started my journey as an entrepreneur.
I immediately found that every day there are new challenges but the principal intent is to keep hustling and finding solutions. At first, I was rejected by various financial institutions, banks and private companies for financing, but the never give up attitude has helped me grasp new opportunities during this time.
I believe if I’m not being rejected or being told ‘no’, then I’m not doing the right thing or not pushing hard enough. For me, I’ve always wanted to get into a business where I can be the change agent and the be the big fish in the business rather than the small fish.
EnvoPap started with a focus on sustainability by introducing environmentally-friendly products into the market. In time, the broader idea developed of the use of environmentally-friendly techniques and eco-friendly products in pulp & paper manufacturing to give whole new dimension to the industry.
There were a few challenges during the initial stages, the biggest being getting funding and then getting the product into the market. EnvoPap papers are manufactured using eco-friendly technology and are also produced paper with quality and stiffness thanks to agro-based raw materials.
Today, paper has become a popular commodity and there are various players in the market manufacturing it, this creates a lot of competition. There have always been a lot of established paper manufacturers, especially in the European Union. Thus, deciding to go with paper was always going to be quite a gamble.
Apart from getting the product into the market, customer acquisition and retention also proved to be quite challenging. Even though paper is a universal product, different markets have different needs and challenges and thus different marketing techniques had to be executed for different markets.
This had to be tackled with a lot of expertise, keeping the market and the competition in mind. Also, another area of learning was the taxation policies, duty structure and legalities of each market.
In the European Union, an eco-friendly paper is available which is only recycled. However, even though the recycled paper is eco-friendly, it’s still not 100% bio-degradable as it is recycled from old print media and newspapers which mean it still carries 5% ink pulp. The papers that EnvoPap makes are 100% manufactured under virgin fibre made from sugarcane and wheatgrass waste. Thus, making this product one of a kind in the European market.
The paper and packaging industry has never seen a substantial decrease in demand. Paper is a commodity that is used worldwide on a daily basis. The only foreseeable disruption in the demand of paper is born due to the focus shifting to digital media. This poses a challenge for paper manufacturers but also pushes the paper industry to use sustainable materials and products that do not cause any damage to nature or the environment. This also gives us the boost and drive to keep changing and innovate new ways to produce paper. For any business to be sustainable, innovation is the key to success.
Currently, we are trying to initiate contractual deals with universities and government institutions across the European Union. We are also working with the European Enterprise Network (EEN) to get our product introduced through their network. Apart from business development, we are also in the process of getting our product trademarked and copyrighted, which is an extremely crucial step. Simultaneously, we are raising finance from various private institutions and banks to help grow the business.
Overall, in the few years that I have been an entrepreneur, I have learnt a lot, made some mistakes and learnt from them too. Every step and every process has been a teaching experience and my academic qualifications have helped me tremendously through it all. I am extremely grateful for all the knowledge and learning that I have received over the years. And I hope to keep having an enriching journey as an entrepreneur.