We have all heard of the famous saying that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’, and now with a little help from a visionary entrepreneur from Manipur, the contribution it makes to society won’t only be words. It will also help contribute towards a greener planet. But how, you ask? Well, Ngangom Monalisa Chanu has introduced eco-friendly pens that turn into plants, after use. The product is being manufactured under her business venture, Chanu Associates that was established way back in 2007. Aside from eco-friendly pens, the company also manufactures pencils, direct filling ball pens, paper bags, etc.
The idea to start this unique venture started in college. After completing matriculation from St Savio School and 12th standard from DAV Public School, Shangakfam, she moved out of the State to pursue medical sciences in Punjab. She even interned in Allahabad for about a year. It was then she noticed the high level of pollution at both places and how the green cover was minimal as compared to back home in the Northeast. As she always had a soft spot for nature and greenery, she was motivated to start a venture that can boost conservation. We speak to the green entrepreneur to know more about the venture and future plans.
Tell us a little about Chanu Associates and how you came up with the idea of eco-friendly stationery?
Chanu Associates was established in 2007 with the purpose of manufacturing handmade bags and other small stationery products using scrap materials. It was only last year that I decided to make some stationery items that are also eco-friendly. The idea and technique came from the bags that we used to make from scrap paper and clothes. I wanted to sell environment friendly items to people and make them aware about conservation while also sustaining the company financially at the same time.
The pens are made with waste paper and old newspaper. The refills are the same like in any other pen you can find in any store. We insert seeds into the paper that is wrapped around the refills. After the ink is over, the pens can be put into soil and the seeds grow into a plant. At first, it started out as an experiment but once we saw positive results, we started putting seeds in all the pens we make.
I tried working in the medical sector for some time in Bangalore. But, the work was very energy driven. Though it was a noble profession, I didn’t feel like I was happy. Moreover, I had some health issues for which I wanted to move back home. I had always wanted to do something that contributes to nature, and that dream has led me here. Most of my friends are working in hospitals and in the field of medicine, but I am happy where I am. It feels very good when you can make even a small change that can positively affect nature.
Sustaining a business for ten years must have had it own fair share of challenges, tell us how you managed to overcome them.
Sustaining the business was a challenge. Initially, I did not make much money. I had to keep the business afloat with the money that I had saved when I was working in Bangalore. It is not easy making money and doing something that contributes towards the environment at the same time. But I am happy that things have turned out positively. For years, I have been going with my gut but now since my products have become widely recognized, I will need to make a proper business plan that caters to both, the environment and financial growth of the business.
How big is your team and who are the takers of your eco-friendly stationery?
Presently, there are eight of us working at Chanu Associates. We are supplying pens and pencils to most of the educational institutions in Imphal. More and more students have started to use my stationery, so we are getting a lot of orders.
Any plans for expansion?
As of now, I am not thinking of expanding my business. A lot of capital is required to run a business on a large scale. I am happy as long as my venture continues to serve nature. We do plan to take on awareness campaigns in order to promote the production and consumption of eco-friendly products throughout the State, the region and the country.