Please give us a little introduction about you and 21 Fools?
Divyanshu Asopa is the Founder and CEO of 21Fools, which he started from his hostel room during his engineering at DCE. After failing twice to build a financially sustainable model for 21Fools, first while running a magazine & then an online portal to send paper greeting cards, he moved to something which had his heart from the very beginning – Sustainable Products.
During the company’s early years, Divyanshu acted as a sole designer, sales & production hustler and sometimes the delivery boy to assure timely delivery for clients. Now he focuses on making new sustainable products from Beej Kapas Paper and Reclaimed wood
When he is not working, Divyanshu is busy drinking tea, collecting stories from people and places, watching films and listening to A R Rahman. An aspiring Film maker and writer, he loves to think he is a food lover in spite of being a vegetarian with a small appetite.
21 Fools – Started in 2014, 21Fools is India’s first and largest manufacturer of a unique, one of a kind biodegradable paper that is made from cotton and is embedded with seeds. When this paper is planted in a pot of soil, the seeds germinate and the paper composts away to grow into a plant. With this, we promote sustainability and aim to create meaningful products for a better world.
How did this journey start? What was the inspiration behind it?
Initially, we were dealing in the Greeting card space, where stacks and stacks of paper would pile up before us. This made us realise that we were creating a bigger problem rather than solving one. We wanted to prevent this paper pollution and create something more sustainable. We then thought of avoiding wood pulp and making paper from waste and entered the handmade paper space. During that time, we heard about a few seed paper projects happening in the West. Our manufacturing team in Kalpana Handmade paper in Jaipur experimented and created the same in India.
How did you arrive with 21 Fools as your brand name?
The core idea was to include an element of foolishness and fun in the company. The number 21 just sounded right to us, along with the word Fools. We believe that not everything needs to have some major significance. Sometimes, it’s just the simple things that are meaningful!
How the paper is made:
Our Factory is located Jaipur where we have small manufacturing team at Kalpana Handmade Paper.
This is process of making the paper:
Pre-consumed cotton is first procured from vendors and factories.
After procuring waste hosiery material, it is shredded into tiny pieces.
This is done until it turns into a soft cotton like consistency.
This cotton is mixed with other materials like water and gum.
Seeds are then added to this mixture.
This mixture is poured into a large rectangular plate and dried to make seed paper.
With so much competition around how different is 21 Fools?
Interestingly, we don’t have a lot of competition. 21 Fools is the first company in the country to launch seed paper. Within the last 4 years, we have earned a respectable name in the corporate industry. We have worked with an impressive clientele including Google, BMW, Flipkart, WWF, Reliance, Hyatt, Pepperfry, Unilever etc.
We have sold over 3.3 million seed paper products and are expanding at a tremendous speed.
Could you tell us about the hurdles and challenges you had to face along the way?
Educate people on how to plants- Since this is a new concept, not many people are aware of it. People usually prefer buying plants rather than growing them from scratch. Thus, our major challenge was to introduce this concept to people and educate them on how to grow the paper into a plant.
Printing and Design Restrictions– The process of making seed paper is done manually without any machines. This is to protect the seeds embedded in the paper from getting crushed between the machine rollers. Thus, there are many printing and design restrictions. Images cannot be printed and the designs must be minimalist.
Was it your dream or did you always want to start a company keeping the environment in mind? Or Eco-friendly products?
I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. However, the concept of sustainability came to me naturally. It just seemed like the right thing to do.