Beej, India’s first premium sustainable accessories brand was launched in January 2020 by Arundhati Kumar, a corporate professional for 18+ years. “Leading the HR consulting practice in a consulting firm, I loved my job and that’s the only thing I knew how to do really, there was this constant nagging thought that I would like to do something more that gives me the chance to create and build value. So I decided to take a pause till I could figure what I want to do”, says the dreamer Arundhati.
Foolishly Brave, that’s how I like to refer to myself, and this is my story.
During my consulting and coaching days, I learnt there are two kinds of people, one who see the world as is and one who see the world as it can be. I am the latter. My biggest strength and perhaps greatest weakness too, is that I am a dreamer. Not such a bad thing, when you are in a creative business.
A Conscious Consumer
For the past few years, I have been increasingly conscious as well as concerned about the ongoing climate crisis. I started to make small lifestyle shifts, we moved away from single-use plastics at home, I started using drip irrigation to water my balcony plants, became more conscious of my shopping habits and so on. Fashion has always been an area of interest, so I decided to merge the two. I started researching and reading up on sustainability as a whole as well as environmentally friendly alternatives to leather which became the genesis of Beej.
Beej – Making sustainability a mainstream fashion
Beej was born out of a single belief, that style and sustainability can and must co-exist. As a brand it’s our vision to make sustainability a mainstream fashion choice. Most of our materials are plant-based leather alternatives sourced from various parts of the globe. Currently we are working with Cork, Pinatex made from pineapple leaves, and Desserto which is a leather alternative made from cactus pulp and sourced from Mexico. We chose our materials for their low environmental impact and well as their versatility to be designed into gorgeous accessories.
At Beej the design approach is simple – it’s about keeping it true to the brand philosophy, of being conscious and mindful about everything we do. So far our designs have been trend agnostic because that’s the kind of shopping habit I’d like the buyers to have. Buy what you like, because it’s functional as well as aesthetic and use it for a long time, because that’s the best way to be sustainable.
Our designs are low on elements that don’t lend themselves to sustainability, for example we use very little hardware, no metal charms etc.. It’s more about the silhouettes, the workmanship and the material, because to us that is the hero.
For us it’s about assessing and reducing impact at every step – There can be no product with zero impact but what you can do is minimize impact at each stage – and that’s what we try and do across all processes from sourcing, to design, and finally packaging.
“We are proud to say that we are the first Indian start-up to design accessories where every element is sustainable, including our packaging which is zero plastic and zero-waste”, adds the enthusiastic founder.
Every part of our product is sustainable in some form and we show it to our consumers through a transparent supply chain, so our consumers know exactly what’s gone into their products. Our lining fabrics are made from consumer recycled yarn and the zippers used are recycled PET. We pay a lot of importance to certifications and suppliers as that helps us maintain a sustainable supply chain. Our products are made to order and that helps us minimize waste
The journey so far
I started Beej at a time when my personal life was also at crossroads and many friends and well-wishers advised me against it, but that’s the thing, it’s never a good time to start. Once I decided to start, things slowly just fell into place. Very early on in our journey, Beej got incubated by an incubation centre supported by Niti Aayog that gave us access to a whole start-up eco system. We also became part of an UNDP program that selects women run start-ups to make them investor ready.
COVID has just made it so much harder. Businesses are struggling and for young independent bootstrapped brands like us, who are operating within niche segments, it’s been a nightmare. Business is not easy, but then starting up never is. I remember one evening when I was having a break down, I called up my ex-boss who is also my mentor and he said something so wise, “Businesses are built by perseverance and resilience, never by luck or brilliance. It’s a back breaking and nerve testing endeavour. The romance of business is when someone writes the biography years later” and that’s so true.
Goal and Vision