If you are someone who is on the lookout for sustainable clothes for your kids, you are going to find an ally in the founders of Greendigo. Meghna Kishore & Barkha Bhatnagar Das, co-founders of Greendigo, are making kidswear both sustainable and affordable. Both Meghana and Barkha, hailing from the financial background believed strongly towards the cause to quit their corporate jobs to venture into the world of entrepreneurship.
We were in conversation with Meghna and Barkha to explore their journey of founding Greendigo.
Where did it all begin for you?
Greendigo was co-founded by two of us, Meghna Kishore and Barkha Bhatnagar Das. Both of us share a strong sense of purposeful living and environmental consciousness. We were deeply concerned about the health issues associated with the use of synthetic fabrics in kids’ clothing as well as the environmental impact of these fabrics. So we set out to produce high-quality, fun, and vibrant kidswear which is sustainable and 100% certified organic.
We realized that children are one of the largest consumers of apparel and are also the most vulnerable customer segment to feel the ill-effects of synthetic clothing and toxic chemicals. From the perspective of the environment, synthetic garments take far longer to decompose, creating long-term pollution which in turn impacts the future generations. There is also an acute lack of awareness about the health and environmental effects of synthetic clothing in India, and we wanted to change that.
Greendigo was founded with the vision of making ‘organic’ the new normal. In India, good quality, safe organic cotton clothing for children is not very easily available. The handful of brands who do offer clothes in this category often charge a huge premium, which has resulted in people having the notion that organic clothing is niche and reserved for the elite only. Through Greendigo we seek to change this perception because in reality, organic cotton clothing can be very affordable and made easily accessible to the masses.
Can you tell us something about yourself?
Meghna Kishore: I am a financial professional with over 2 decades of experience in the field. I have spent most of my adult life in Singapore, the Netherlands, and London. When I moved back to Mumbai, I was shocked to see the lack of awareness regarding the harmful effects of synthetic clothing, which is widely consumed in India. For many years, I relied on friends and family travelling overseas to bring back bags of organic clothing for my children. So I took it upon myself to start a homegrown organic kidswear brand that offers international designs that are practical and perfect for the active lifestyle of children.
Barkha Bhatnagar Das: I worked in the banking sector for over 15 years, and I have always been mindful of living consciously. I strongly believe that living sustainably starts early in life. It’s not just a simple term, it’s a lifestyle that needs to be developed. Children are one the largest consumers of apparel, and the path of good health and sustainability is something that can be ingrained from early on in their lives by making organic and toxin-free clothing available to them. With this thought in mind, I embarked upon a journey to create clothing rich in meaning and quality.
Please share the What, When, & How of starting your brand Greendigo?
Greendigo’s ethos is rooted in a sustainable approach to kids’ clothing. Both of us believe in consuming consciously and feel a strong sense of responsibility to the environment. We collectively decided to give up our corporate careers to drive a change in the kids’ apparel industry, and provide safe, toxin-free, and environment-friendly clothing to children. In order to make a significant impact, it is not just occasional wear that needs to be made sustainable, we must also focus on daily wear, which is consumed in larger numbers, and make sure it is consumed and produced consciously.
Children consumed apparel on a very large scale, most of which is synthetic, which is known to cause health concerns. Children’s skin is significantly thinner than adult skin and hence more absorbent of substances present in their clothes. Kids are thereby more prone to absorbing the harmful chemicals and toxins present in their garments, and at a much faster rate, leading to a number of health issues, both internal and external. On the other hand, organic cotton is devoid of harmful chemicals which makes it less likely to trigger any allergies in children.
Health hazards aside, synthetic garments are not biodegradable and add to long-term pollution. They are also responsible for large scale water pollution, as it flushes out harmful waste from the production process. All this harms the environment and dangerous toxins eventually make their way into our food chain causing health issues.
We at Greendigo ensure that the garments are certified by Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), a universal standard that affirms the organic status of raw materials as well as guarantees that manufacturing processes are environmentally and socially responsible.
We understand that an outdoorsy lifestyle is very important for the well-being of kids which is why our garments are machine washable, hardwearing, and practical. They are also capsule wardrobe friendly and include everyday essentials which make mix and match a whole lot of fun.
Can you walk us through your journey so far?
We are a new brand, just over a year old and we wanted to start off with clean and sustainable practices. We believe that it’s important to have good processes in place from the start because the damage caused by a brand over a significant period of time can’t be changed overnight. To ensure that our supply chain was tuned for reducing carbon emissions, we chose to work with a sustainable fibre like organic cotton. Production is carried out locally within India and we offer good quality garments which are long-lasting. By having a GOTS-certified supply chain and 100% plastic-free packaging, we attempt to work with a cleaner and greener approach to production and servicing customers. It was only natural for us to adopt carbon offsetting because while we have consciously built our supply chain to reduce carbon emissions wherever we can, the unavoidable emissions need to be addressed by way of offsets.
What are some challenges that you faced while running Greendigo?
The first and the biggest challenge we encountered was setting up a clean, sustainable, tight loop and reliable supply chain. Manufacturers often do not entertain start-ups since they fail to meet the MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity). Also, given that organic clothing for kids is still a relatively nascent category in India, there are only a handful of manufacturers whose supply chain is end-to-end compliant with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Our first big setback actually was encountering a manufacturer who believed in greenwashing and tried coaxing us to follow suit. Since his ideology was not in line with our belief in building an authentic, sustainable and organic brand, we took a business call to delay our go-to-market date rather than do what was not in line with our ethics and principles.
When we started out with Greendigo Organic Clothing, our understanding was that there is a scarcity of good quality, comfortable and sustainable clothing for children. As we progressed, we learnt that the majority of so-called ‘organic’ brands are misleading consumers by indulging in greenwashing, thereby paying lip service to their standards on product quality and sustainability. This turned out to be a big challenge for us. We had to focus on educating the audience on what organic clothing truly means and how Greendigo is different from the rest. Devoid of artificial fertilizers, synthetic pesticides and toxic colours, Greendigo’s garments are soft, pure, comfortable and gentle on the delicate skin of children while being conscious of the environment. Moreover, to test the genuineness of authentic organic garments, such as Greendigo’s, customers were made aware of the fact that they can check for the GOTS certification, attached to every garment.
Furthermore, there is a cloud of misconceptions that organic clothing is dull and not stylish, is unavailable in bright colours, is difficult to maintain and is only for occasional wear. By constantly having to reinforce that organic clothes can be fun, affordable, low maintenance and for everyday wear, we feel that we are now creating a category rather than vying for a share in one that already exists.
Give us some background on your sourcing of textiles?
Organic cotton clothing is often perceived to be dull, boring, and high-maintenance, and thus is considered unsuitable for kids’ daily wear. We at Greendigo try to debunk this myth by offering vibrant, long-lasting, and thought-through garments for children aged 0 – 12 years. We design garments keeping in mind both the comfort of children and the convenience of parents. We chose to work with sustainable fibre like organic cotton to reduce carbon emissions. Production is carried out locally and we also have a GOTS certified supply chain. We also adopted carbon offsetting to deal with the unavoidable emissions. Our customers can experience Greendigo’s carbon-neutral journey across their entire shopping experience on our website.
What according to you makes Greendigo stand out amongst other brands?
Greendigo has always strived to create good quality kids’ clothing that is long-lasting and practical. Our designs are all capsule wardrobe-friendly and long-lasting to reduce the inherent need to purchase more and more. Through our brand, we seek to discourage overconsumption. Our design team focuses on innovative and clever designs which are comfortable for kids and convenient for parents, last longer, and are more resilient for multiple wears. For instance, our babygrow bodysuits and onesies come with an extra set of buttons or folded fabric to offer a comfortable fit to growing babies. Our 2-in-1 reversible dress offers the delight of two dresses rolled into one. We take into consideration insights from parents of newborns with the intention of addressing their pain points with our designs. For instance, our swaddle bag solves for babies kicking off their blanket and the parents worrying about babies being left cold. Babies can be securely zipped in our swaddle bag and sleep soundly through the night.
Curtailing overconsumption along with consciously repurposing and recycling older stuff is a habit that needs to be emulated by all. In fact, stimulating discourse on responsible consumption is a part of our brand’s narrative too. We encourage our customers to repurpose or recycle old clothing rather than just throw it away and even our garment tags carry this appeal.
How are you using Social Media to promote your homegrown brand?
Being an e-commerce brand, digital marketing is crucial for driving revenue and building brand value. It helps in driving customer engagement. Thanks to social media, consumers today have an outlet to express their opinions –whether positive or negative. Today, since brands and consumers are connected more directly than ever, product development tends to become more relevant, based on the consumer’s needs/feedback. It also makes it easier to understand the consumer’s pain points and offer the right products to address the same. We constantly put out information on our brand’s social media pages which make our audience feel involved - be it information on our organic products, our brand values, upcoming collections, or behind-the-scenes footage of the production processes. Audiences who relate to our brand’s narrative and values are truly our best-sounding boards.
What is your 5-year plan for Greendigo?
With GOTS certification, Carbon Neutrality, and ethical manufacturing practices in place, we aim to attract buyers who believe in responsible production from around the world. In endeavour to make organic the new normal for as wide an audience as possible, the brand promises to expand its product line to make it more inclusive over the next few years.
Can you share your business model with us?
We primarily sell through our own portal. Apart from this, we do bulk orders as well. We ship pan-India and internationally.
One advice/suggestion you’d like to give aspiring entrepreneurs out there.
The best advice is to believe in your cause. Even if the world thinks it is a bad idea, stick to your guns and it will eventually pay off.