#NICEStories – Zero Waste Solutions at Bare Necessities with Founder, Sahar Mansoor

Chitra Aiyer 9 March, 2021

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Featuring Bare Necessities (BN) on NICE Stories. Bare Necessities won 1st place at the NICE Aarohana Business Plan Competition – Growth Stage. BN produces zero waste personal, lifestyle & home care products and offers educational workshops and online courses on sustainability.

The Vision

Making Zero Waste the norm and not the exception through high-quality zero waste products and online courses.

The Team

Meet the rest of the team here.

Sahar Mansoor has an MPhil in Environmental Law & Economics from the University of Cambridge. She was a Mobile Health Researcher at the W.H.O. She is also a Penguin Author.

Meet Sahar, the Founder

Sahar Mansoor

“I currently have a 500 gms jar of all the trash I have produced in 5 years. 

I am a circular economy nerd, a voracious learner and a curious traveler. Super fortunate to have been recognized by Meaningful Business 100, Global Green Economic Forum, Al Jazeera Stream, NDTV, Vogue India, Elle India, Verve, Femina, India Today magazines among others.” 

Motivation to Found Bare Necessities 

When I came back to India in 2015, I felt overwhelmed by the trash piles on the streets. I spent time with local waste pickers, watched them sort through waste with their bare hands, and began thinking about the environmental, health and social justice issues associated with our garbage problem. 

I wanted to stop being part of the problem and address my own trash issue first. Having called myself an environmentalist for about six years then, I decided to walk the talk. 

Inspiration and Resources

My go-to resources were blogs by Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer but more importantly, were conversations with my grandma – asking her what she did before shampoo was sold in plastic bottles. She shared traditional recipes that they used – made only of natural ingredients with no added chemicals. This stayed at the back of my mind.

A lot of our Indian traditions are actually rooted in ecological practices or what we now can call “zero waste practices”. 

Our stainless steel ‘tiffin box’ is another example of an Indian tradition that is celebrated by the zero waste movement. The story of the Mumbai Dabbawala is exemplary – creating 5,000+ jobs, enabling community health by delivering home-cooked meals to 2+ lakh people every day, while producing no trash! 

In my quest, I could not find personal and home care products that didn’t contain harmful chemicals and weren’t packaged in plastic. As a response, I decided to start a company that mirrored the values of zero waste, ethical consumption and sustainability. 

I wanted to make it easy for those looking to consume mindfully and to encourage the rest to produce less waste. And Bare Necessities was born in 2016!

Zero Waste Products

We started BN by selling zero waste products on our website. In 2017, we were selling 15 products. Currently, we sell 70+ products

We also sell through online B2B marketplaces and have established multiple partnerships to sell our products. We have gone from having 8 in 2017 to 60+ B2B partnerships now. 

At our headquarters in Bangalore, we have a refill station where our customers refill Bare products.

Our products have also been a great hit with bulk gifting for corporates, weddings and similar occasions. Over the last four years, we have gained over 30000+ customers. Both our market size and customer base are growing with a high level of return customers. 

Our customers find us primarily through our social media accounts – Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube.

Handcrafted in India

Bare Necessities products

BN is passionate about creating products that are handcrafted in India.

We attempt to celebrate the beauty and richness of India! It is exciting to incorporate indigenous, ancient ingredients whose benefits we have probably heard of but never really experienced for ourselves such as turmeric!

At the same time, we also appeal to the sensibilities of a diverse consumer base because we try and marry the old and the new! 

We take a cradle-to-cradle approach to every product, from design to manufacturing to distribution. All our products are powered by natural, bare Indian ingredients; which have no harmful impacts on our health or environment.

All our packaging is 100% recyclable and eco-friendly. In the last four years, we have indirectly diverted 172,542 kgs of plastic from ending up in landfills through the unit sale of our products.

Online Courses | Educational Workshops 

We offer self-paced online courses on our Bare Learning platform and have 1200+ students and counting.

We conduct a variety of customized educational workshops – from informative resources to hands-on activities to insightful discussions with experts. Every partner we have worked with has a unique theme & thought process and we take a holistic approach.

Impact through Workshops: 200,000+ direct and 1,000,000+ indirect reach.

Typical Customer

Our target customers are from Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities across India. Our products provide solutions for sustainability-conscious customers looking to make a low waste impact through their personal, home, and lifestyle products.

Check the section What our Community is Saying to read our customer testimonials.

Overcoming Challenges

The pricing of our products has faced a lot of criticism. 

However, I try to be transparent and break it down for people who may only be looking at short-term implications and pricing rather than the big picture.

  • Additionally, we highlight what we, as a humble social enterprise, are doing to support livelihoods, whether that is through ethically sourcing certain raw materials or ensuring that our supply chain supports local farmers. 
  • We also strive to provide opportunities for women from underserved socioeconomic backgrounds and invest in upskilling them to show the extent of their potential. 
  • It’s all about the triple bottom line: balancing the environmental, social and economic objectives, so they are all congruent with each other!

Learnings

  • It’s important to find a balance between the innovations that have been made (which are amazing) and sustainability and then to use innovative thinking to come up with sustainable solutions for our communities.
  • The way we communicate matters – we ensure that our communication and social media channels are relatable, approachable and that we are accessible as well. We embody a “you can do it too” message.
  • We are inclusive and meet people wherever they are in their environmental journey. Through such efforts, we have built a growing community of aspiring change-makers who continue the efforts towards environmental advocacy along with us.

Advice for Cultural Entrepreneurs

  • Explore, experiment and marry the old with the new. You never know what might surprise you.
  • Accept that change doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Ask for help – you most likely will get it! Don’t be afraid of reaching out for advice, support, mentorship or even financial support!

Most importantly, if you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Go for it!

On Winning the NICE Aarohana Business Plan Competition

It has been a tremendous encouragement to win the NICE Aarohana Business Plan competition for Growth stage enterprises. 

We focussed on the NICE values and saw that we are a good fit.

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Calling Cultural Entrepreneurs

Have a cultural enterprise? Tell us what you do. Write to us at namaste@niceorg.in.

To feature your cultural enterprise on NICE Stories, write to me at chitra@niceorg.in.

 

 

Images from Bare Necessities

author
Chitra Aiyer