Posted on 4 December, 2015 by Team Wishberry
If someone told us that we could sow paper- that’s it- just paper into the soil and have a plant coming out of it, we’d just straight up ask them what plant they were smoking. But, all that was before we heard of this concept called Seed Paper created and conceptualized by Jaipur-based Tomato & Co., which has sold 7.5 lakhs sheets of this paper so far. To get more insight into what this whole thing really is about, we spoke to the founder of Tomato & Co. Kritika Parwal. Read on.
How did you think of the concept of plantable paper?! Kritika: It all started when I was studying in the U.S. and had to come up with a unique marketing solution for one of my classes. Being from Jaipur, I knew a lot of handmade paper manufacturers, so I pitched the idea of seed paper, but only in theory. And, everyone loved it! Once I graduated, I wanted to start something of my own, especially in the social-sustainability business. I was at a party when I met a brand manager from Kissan and told him about my idea. He called me the next morning and asked me to do this for them. The next thing I know, I was in Sanganer, Rajasthan, procuring small samples and experimenting. Eventually, a few plants grew and we’ve worked out a nine-step process that we’ll be patenting soon.
The first seed paper contained Tomato seeds, which is where Tomato & Co. got its name from!
How does the paper work? Kritika: The paper is made by shredding organic pulp and soaking it in water. It is then placed on screens, flattened, sun-dried, rolled a couple of times and then smoothened out into sheets. While planting the paper in the soil, it first needs to be shredded and put into a pot of soil with a 1/4 to 1/2 inch layer of soil on top. The pot needs to be placed in Sun and watered regularly. The sapling appears in 10-15 days. The soil needs to be kept wet till the sapling appears, after which it can be watered as required.
How safe is this paper? Kritika: Completely. All our seeds are sourced from Jaipur and all the colours we use in the paper are organic dyes made from indigo, saffron etc.
Tell us about Tomato & Co.'s journey so far? What have been the highlights? Kritika: We have crafted customised products for many marquee brands and startups around the country and have received phenomenal response from them. Media has received us extremely well and helped us reach out to the customers. Six months back, we put a new system of accounting in practice, which we called the double bottom line system, i.e. apart from profits, we also sum up the number of new plants we have help grow which is essentially the number of customer contacts. We are totally glad to be the reason behind 8 lakh new plants in India!
What challenges have you come across during this process? Kritika: The biggest challenge has been developing outreach and educating the customer on a shoestring marketing budget. People don't even know that such a product exists. Of course, to get the paper correct and ensure germination was also a nerve wrecking task, since we could not put in any chemicals in the process and had to look for alternate solutions.
So far, you've been working with corporates and organizations. Any plans to make it more easily available for people across India? Kritika: Yes, we are planning to get into online retail of greeting cards, coaster sets, calendars and diaries made of plantable paper. You should see that in the first quarter of 2016.
What's next in store for Tomato & Co.? Kritika: Keep following our website for that! Imagine: coffee cup sleeves, coasters, calendars, postcards, door hangers, bookmarks; all of these seemingly ordinary objects can transform into a plant of your choice! We say, SHUT UP AND TAKE OUR MONEY! Follow Tomato and Co. on Facebook and Kritika Parwal on Twitter for more updates.