Fr Carlos Luis SAC
There are many ways of getting motivated when it comes to pursuing any higher goal. Ask Kaydence Rodrigues from Velim what is that thing that motivates her to be an entrepreneur and pat comes the reply, "Solve socio-economic and ecological concerns humanity and nature face."
Kaydence Rodrigues is a 12th grader at Vidya Vikas Academy studying Science with plans to specialize in psychology. Her love for the environment and people inspired her to start an eco-friendly company last year and on February 13, 2023, Velim Eco, her pet project, launched Velim Eco-friendly pencils.
Velim Eco launched ‘Velim Eco-Friendly Pencils’ to create awareness about the no benefits of using plastic pens, which are rarely recycled, and introduce an alternative writing instrument - a pencil made out of recycled newspaper.
She believes it to be a dual-strategy to deal with environmental degradation i.e. recycling papers will deter companies from cutting trees and the recycled paper could be used to make pencils.
She took time off to answer questions for Gomantak Times digital:
GT: Why create eco-friendly pencils when others in India such as Goodwill Tech, Kampioen Works Pvt Ltd, Pepaa, Green-O-Tech India and Prithwe are already doing so?
KAYDENCE: The uniqueness of Velim Eco-Friendly pencils is in the purpose behind the idea. One of the greatest contributors to single-use plastic is plastic pens. Every year 2.4 billion plastic pens are brought to the market, according to data collected by our team. Unfortunately, 91 per cent of most plastic pens are not recycled. To reduce the use of plastic pens, we decided to introduce eco-friendly pencils.
What's your inspiration behind chosing the name, Velim eco-friendly pencils?
KAYDENCE: Velim is my ancestral home. I have often seen newspapers being collected at the homes of my relatives. In Velim, people still read newspapers and that's a good thing, but after a few days, the same newspapers become waste. So the aim of Velim Eco is to ensure newspapers don't go into the bin and are used to make eco-friendly pencils. The name Velim is important here because like my parents I want to put Velim and India's name on the global map.
Do you intend to use magazines, books and other paper products as these too contribute to massive amounts of paper waste?
KAYDENCE: At this point, we are focusing only on newspapers. I have visited newspaper printing presses not only in Goa but Mumbai and Delhi. I understand the nuances of newspapers and their contribution to paper waste. In India, only 20 per cent of waste paper is collected and the rest goes to landfills. Out of 100 kilos of paper used, only 30 per cent comes back for recycling. Therefore, collectively we decided to do our bit to make a difference and that led us to start with newspapers first and then we plan to expand our products to include other forms of plain paper.
How do you intend to create jobs in Goa's villages with the introduction of Velim Eco-friendly pencils?
KAYDENCE: My team believes in the concept of a circular economy, a simple and natural process. People give their newspapers to waste newspaper collectors and get paid. The newspaper collector sells the waste newspapers. This is done to encourage the waste newspaper collector to collect more newspapers because there is a confirmed buyer.
We currently employ a team of 10 who repurpose the waste newspapers into recycled pencils and we pay them the cost of making the pencils in a format – cost per pencil. The Velim eco-friendly pencils are then marketed and sold in retail stores that earn a percentage from the sale of the pencils. We aim to ensure that everyone in the chain of making eco-friendly pencils has an economic benefit. Eventually, we plan to set up a system in Goa where we will work with the panchayats and municipal councils to segregate the waste newspapers and buy them from the government bodies directly so that they can create employment in the villages and municipalities.
What is the challenge you are facing?
KAYDENCE: Children after Class 5 and people, in general, do not use pencils. They have become dependent on pens, especially plastic ones. We are fighting against this habit. It is not easy to change a habit. But if a habit could be substituted with a more purposeful habit, then we could achieve some percentage of success. The purposeful habit is to get a child or an adult to realize that eco-friendly pencils will help save our trees and our planet through the process of reducing the usage of plastic pens, reusing paper by writing with pencils because it can be rubbed off, and recycled newspapers that are lying around as waste to make eco-friendly pencils.
The second challenge is the fact that we are trying to fight a commodity with a novelty idea but some retailers will expect us to give them benefits like manufacturers of pencils currently with a mass production, marketing budget and distributor network. But the best part of the challenge is to make the novelty product a commodity product. So we will take our challenges as they come.
What is your next step?
KAYDENCE: Our focus over the next 24 months is on the retail and corporate markets in Goa, India and the Middle East. We will be working on product innovations as that is an ongoing practice but right now our focus is production and market penetration. We will be showcasing our product in Israel in April at a weeklong conference organized by the American Jewish Committee.