IWB Dishes Out Pooja’s Business Story Of Renting Out Dinnerware To Save The Planet
- IWB Post
- September 7, 2017
Once a sprawling garden city, Bangalore is struggling today. And it’s no surprise. The world is heading to Bangalore, and she is taking in more than she can receive. It is unfair to call her a dump land. She isn’t. It’s your waste on her land. Someday, she is going to give it all back to you. May you be ready.
Pooja Dixit loves her city. Having seen the massive transformation Bangalore has gone through over these past years, Pooja is doing her bit to save her while she can. She is the founder of a start-up called Spill Savers that is taking little steps towards a beautiful planet and helping people reduce garbage generated out of disposables used during parties. Rent to Reduce is their motto. They provide solutions to so that we can proudly host zero-waste parties to celebrate moments of joy.
Bangalore is my home. And by the end of this conversation, I believe she is in the right hands.
Me: What is Spill Savers?
Pooja: It’s a rental forum for party dinner wares; a better alternative to disposables that people run after to host guests. We fail to realize the amount of waste that we generate in a single night of merry making. Considering Bangalore’s garbage situation, finding alternatives needs to be a priority of the city members.
I left my IT career after having been there for 10 years. It was my time to ‘give something back to the society,’ as they say. I was becoming aware of our part towards a healthy environment. We are its most active members. I began looking into steps that would help people help reduce waste. I was also looking at a steady income. Spill Savers just happened and addressed both issues.
Me: How does this work? Renting out dishes!
Pooja: It’s a fairly simple process. We make dishes available to people who ask for it. They can rent out the entire set of cutleries and not have to deal with the problem of cleaning the dirty dishes either; we do it for them. Spill Savers understood the basic idea behind why people chose disposables – convenience. So we keep the solution intact but replace the product with a something more “green.” As easy as the disposables!
Me: How did Spill Savers find its beginning?
Pooja: It started with a simple question. What can we do? Bangalore, once a garden city (it’s not just a conjecture, to those who very easily remark how dirty Bangalore is) is turning into a garbage dump. At every corner lies a big heap of rubbish. The landfill sections too are nearing their capacity.
Sessions of brainstorming led us to Spill Savers. It just clicked. We discussed our idea with a few friends, and they loved it. Spill Saver had found its footing. Disposables are unhealthy and clumsy. And honestly, nobody likes eating off a weightless piece of paper/plastic.
Me: Why should I opt for this service?
Pooja: If you care about the environment and if you care about giving your guests a fine dining experience.
Me: But do you really receive orders from a range of customers?
Pooja: Yes of course. People who care about their surroundings…
Me: No sorry, I mean Spill Savers seems expensive. It is not as cheap as the disposables. A middle-class family will find this unaffordable, and the higher classes generally have their own range of crockery.
Pooja: This service is for the environment conscious. Of course, it’s more expensive than the caterers as well. But there’s reliable quality.
And even on the higher classes, they might stock cutleries for say a gathering of 20-30 people. But for a larger number, we are here.
We have a lot of high-end customers. There are also times we give it for free.
Disposables are convenient and cheap. But not good! The entire purpose behind Spill Saver initiative is minimizing waste. And people who resonate with our thought, approach us.
Me: So who is on your team?
Pooja: We are a team of 2 women – Shalini Goel and I. Shalini basically works as a manager at a reputed firm. So, she is my backup. In my absence, Shalini is the one who handles the orders.
Me: Does Spill Saver have a future?
Pooja: With the states promoting the ban on disposables, Spill Saver is here to stay. The rest is now up to the enforcement officers.
Spill Saver is not my business venture. Of course, I earn out of it. But we promote borrowing dishes from friends and neighbors first. In cases where people refuse to ask others, we offer our services.
We have tried encouraging the families in housing societies to pool dinner wares that anyone can have access to when needed. As a service provider that delivers and picks up the dishes, we are aware of our carbon footprint. And Spill Saver seeks to reduce it.
Me: So, I understand that this is not really your Big Dollar Start-Up venture?
Pooja: No, it isn’t. It’s a social enterprise. I charge for the main operational costs – the maids doing dishes, the rent for the space to stack the goods. And it’s not just that. Things get lost and everything costs. This has to be a viable and sustainable project for me. I will be getting back to IT soon. But Spill Saver will continue its work.
Me: When you say this is a social enterprise, how eco-conscious are you in your daily life? To be able to start a venture like this one and find the momentum to persist with it requires a strong belief in the act we are preaching.
Pooja: Let me talk to you about my past year. I am very proud of the journey I have been on. I have started composting and using menstrual cups.
I have been working towards eliminating waste from my life. We are consciously reducing plastic consumption and waste generation. The only plastic that you will find at home is from the things packaged in plastic. I am even trying to minimize that by carrying my own boxes to shops at times.
It is not easy I must admit. I have a 4-year-old kid, and the zero waste lifestyle I am trying to adopt is going to take time. You know I was so happy when he grew out of his diapers. One less waste generated.
It didn’t find immense support in the beginning from family either. It took some coaxing. There were concerns regarding flies, worms. I tried my hand at various methods before I finally hit upon the composting method that worked best for me. Today, my husband is an equal part of the process.
Me: I spoke to a girl recently about huge compost piles. I had a query then, and I have a query now. Does it not smell?
Pooja: No. At least with the method I have adopted, it doesn’t.
Me: Explain more?
Pooja: So I do my composting in a bucket. This again is made of high-quality recyclable plastic. It has a lot of holes in it. I layer it with cocopeat infused with microbes and my wet waste. Once the bucket is full, set it aside for 3 weeks and voila! Your compost is ready to use.
I distribute it among friends and use the remaining with the next batch of cocopeat, thereby reducing my consumption of cocopeat as well. It all works out well.
And the menstrual cups are a revelation. They are so environment-friendly. It’s a silicone cup that grips you from within and gets locked inside. It might take a little time for you to work it out but once you get the hang of it, you will find love. Like I did. I am totally in love with my cup! It is very convenient and trust me, to those who worry about using their fingers to insert the cup inside one’s vagina, I say – better than wrapping dirty pads in papers and discreetly giving it away to kacharawalas.
It isn’t easy to begin I agree. Took me a year and a half to finally put my hands on it. A friend who heard of my sustainable living approach gifted it to me. It costs about 800-900 bucks and is durable enough to last 7-8 years. You understand what I am saying? Total paisa vasool. Sanitary pads are not good for health.
Me: Oh I can vouch for that!
Pooja: Maybe check out Sustainable Menstruation India to understand how women can reduce waste.
Me: Ok. But, until then, tell me about working with a female partner.
Pooja: Oh it’s lovely. We have a wonderful camaraderie. You see we both are college friends. We studied in Banasthali Vidyapith close to Jaipur for about 7-8 years. Jaipur is so close to my heart. I was very excited when you told me you were calling from Jaipur!
Me: And I was so excited when I realized you are from Bangalore. I love Bangalore. Moving on from city love to Spill Saver. What are your challenges?
Pooja: Oh the transportation costs. In the beginning, to understand the difficulties, we shipped the orders ourselves and wait until the party was over to pick it up. In the time we had, we always ended up spending more in malls and shopping than we were earning that day. Wasn’t economical at all. So now, we have things streamlined. I have tied up with rickshaws and trained maids who understand what needs to be done when.
This way, our weekends with our own families (that’s when most parties get organized) don’t get compromised either.
Me: What’s the most absurd thing you’ve heard through this project?
Pooja: Nothing. I have always had positive vibes around me. The thank you people say fills my heart. I am not earning even 1/10th of what I was in IT. But the kind words flowing towards me mean a lot.
Me: How has Bangalore transformed into this? Remember what it used to be? And surely can be…
Pooja: We just consume so much. I have adopted a minimalist lifestyle. Look inside your wardrobes and begin to give away the extra we hoard. We get lured in by sales. I was one of that too.
But once you begin to be aware and conscious of what’s around and what’s our role in it, we begin questioning – Do I really need this?
Me: We are all a part of the line that queues outside sales! How did the transformation happen to you?
Pooja: Having a baby brings you closer to nature. I care about the environment I am leaving behind for him. I am more mindful. It begins with a simple question to any problem – what can I do? Bangalore will soon be on the list of polluted-unsafe-to-breathe-in cities. What can I do? Do anything you can. I drive cars. So, I don’t ask others not to drive. There are circumstantial problems. So, do what you can. Take baby steps. The more you read about sustainable living, the more you begin to understand. It’s taken 2 years, but there’s hardly any plastic that I use today at home. The only plastic is the composting bucket.
It is a journey really; one that you have to undertake.
Me: Bangalore! Why do I love Bangalore?
Pooja: Weather, South Indian, South Indian people. They are never mean.
Me: You forgot MTR and CTR. Ok, final question! Your idea of an eco-friendly relationship?
Pooja: Don’t hand out flowers. Valentine’s is around the corner. Gift plants instead. Do away with packaging. Maybe use reusable ones. But really, wrap your love with hugs and kisses.
Shower some love on Earth as well.