#NICEStories – Promoting a Sustainable Lifestyle with Eco-friendly Products at MyONEarth With Founder Nitika Sonkhiya

Chitra Aiyer 30 March, 2021

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MyONEarth is a one-stop-shop for all things sustainable and eco-friendly. MyONEarth was a finalist at the NICE Aarohana Business Plan Competition (BPC) – Growth Stage. Featuring the MyONEarth story on NICE Stories.

What was the founder’s inspiration to become a sustainability entrepreneur? How did she set up the enterprise? What does it mean to be a female entrepreneur in this space? Read on.

Founding Team

Nitika Sonkhiya – Chief Executive Officer
Sameesh Nayyar – Chief Financial Officer

An engineer by profession, Nitika has always been interested in recycling and reusing. After her career in HCL Technologies and Genpact Headstrong Capital Markets, she decided to pursue her passion for sustainability and became an entrepreneur! Producing and selling eco-friendly products. 

Nitika Sonkhiya

This is Nitika’s story.

My Inspiration to be Eco-friendly

I have always found myself interested in recycling and reusing things around me. Growing up, I watched my mother put old things to good use, like making lehenga out of her old sarees. She would tell me about her growing up years – making paper baskets, wearing each other’s clothes, using all resources without being wasteful. Her narrations left a mark on me.

As a 10-year-old, wishing to emulate my mother’s practices, I made shopping bags and handbags from old calendars and enjoyed making paper jewelry too. In my teens, I was fond of DIY skincare using besan, malai and all things natural from my mum’s kitchen. 

Over the years, with increasing access to many resources, we have come away from our age-old practices. For example, traditional Indian wedding meals were served on leaves. Guests would be invited to sit down and served as much food as they could eat! In contrast, modern weddings create a lot of food waste: we must go back to our traditional ways to save our resources

Starting MyONEarth

Although an engineer by education, my calling was in sustainability. Making things from waste has been a thing of joy for me – the happiness, indescribable! I wanted to be a sustainability entrepreneur. Though unsure of the kind of business to start, I was sure that it had to be impactful and socially responsible. 

My venture, MyONEarth, is the result of a series of experiments. After launching India’s first organic beauty subscription box, I started my own organic skincare brand. But soon recognized that a lot had been done in this space. 

Taking on a jewelry recycling initiative, I collected jewelry waste from celebrities Nisha Rawal, Nauheed Cyrusi, Shahnaz Padamsee and successfully converted 20 kgs of waste into 100+ new pieces with only a few grams of waste!

After these trials, I realized that it is far more impactful to produce cost-effective, durable, eco-friendly products that are an alternative to single-use plastic to promote sustainable living. Packaging included!

Eco-friendly products

Finding Appropriate Materials and Artisans

I looked for eco-friendly materials that were also easily available and chose bamboo, cork, coconut coir and shells. Coconut waste is a huge challenge. However, by converting it into useful products we not only address the issue of waste but also have the opportunity to generate rural employment. 

Our artisans also have the traditional know-how to work with these materials. On researching, I found unique clusters of artisans in different parts of the country. Lacking the skills to market their products to a larger audience, their businesses have remained small and localized.

After identifying the artisans to work with, I took the plunge – MyONEarth was born in 2019.

The Business

At MyONEarth, we produce a range of natural products including kitchenware, home décor, personal care, travel & fashion accessories and stationery. 

Eco-friendly Products at My ONEarth

We started with a B2B model catering to domestic and international clients including Earthy Crafts, eFket, Primitive Tribes, Studio Yoga. The pandemic pushed us to be a D2C brand. Now, our online business is through our website and e-commerce platforms and we have offline tie-ups with other brands. 

Till now we have produced over 70 SKUs and we keep a close eye on the sales. We actively listen to our customers and add/remove products based on the feedback received.

Today, we supply to 10 countries, creating a global supply chain that drives sustainability.

We have been featured on Yourstory, Logical Indian, Vogue, Storiyaan, Economic times, Femina achievers, The Hans among others.

Vision

Our vision is to be a one-stop for sustainable consumer lifestyle needs.

Brand Logo and Motifs

My ONEarth logo

Our brand logo and motifs are inspired by Warli art, a traditional Indian art form. The Warlis are one of India’s oldest indigenous tribes. Their art is shaped by their subsistence on forest land for centuries and symbolizes living in harmony with nature.

We partnered with Craft and Community Development Foundation (CCDF), a not-for-profit entity set up to support the livelihood of communities focused on art and crafts. Warli artist Rajesh Mor from CCDF helped us develop our motifs.

My ONEarth logo and motifs

Our Customers

There is increasing awareness about the issue of single-use plastic and an urgent need to replace it. Consumers are looking for affordable plastic-free alternatives and we cater to that need.

In line with our philosophy of ‘Waste to Wealth,’ we serve consumers who want to reduce the waste they generate. 

Our typical customer is interested in a holistic lifestyle that includes natural & organic food/products, yoga, meditation, ecotourism and cares for the environment.

Being a Female Entrepreneur

Being a girl makes the already tough entrepreneurial journey even tougher. 

The industry is largely male-dominated. Some vendors are not comfortable talking to me – not only because I am a woman but also because I don’t look my age! As a result, I have had to work extra hard to generate trust and goodwill. 

Without a Salaried Job, Am I Marriageable?

Starting something new is not easy. To achieve one’s goal, one must get uncomfortable.

Quitting my high-paying job to start a venture came with its own challenges. Convincing my parents about giving up a good salary was no simple task. While my father was supportive, my mother has been worried about my being eligible for marriage without a well-paying job!

She would have preferred if I had chosen a risk-free life. Ideally, I would have liked for her to not worry as much but I can see that she comes from a place of love and concern. Over time, I am positive that each of us will find our own equilibrium. 

My Learnings

With little experience in building a successful business, I have come to rely on my father’s words of advice – “Do your work with honesty. Remember that a business needs time and effort.”

  • There is no success without diligent teamwork and it’s important to have a team that understands the mission. The challenge is in finding the right people!
  • Willingness to learn is key and one must do whatever it takes to make it happen.

The NICE Aarohana Business Plan Competition (BPC)

The NICE Aarohana template for presenting the Business Plan was helpful. The insightful mentoring sessions enabled us to think in the right direction.

The BPC has been a highly motivating step forward. We have learned that it is important to have a clear vision and even though we can do everything, we MUST stay focused.

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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 MyONEarth

author
Chitra Aiyer