Gurugram-based brand Jaggery bags, recycles the car seat belts, cargo belts, and ex-army canvas to make various kind of bags that ensures long durability. Read below to know how the roots of their work are two generations old.
One day, while Gautam Malik was travelling to work by car, he happened to touch the seat belt he was wearing, and within no seconds, Malik knew that he had found his 'Eureka moment'. The co-founder of Jaggery bags, a social enterprise that produces high-quality bags from recycled seat belts and cargo belts, remembers the initial days of starting his brand and calls it "quite a journey".
It had all started in November 2015 when Mr. Malik, his mother, Dr. Usha Malik, and his wife, Bhawna Dandona, were looking for ideas to work for reducing the waste problem. While the family was not sure of making bags, they certainly wanted to use materials that did not contain plastic in any form. After Mr. Malik found the way through seat belts, the trail of making products, especially bags started and later, also included cargo belts and ex-army canvas. He emphasizes the durability of cargo belts by explaining how one meter of cargo belts can lift 4,800 lbs, often used for big containers during freight!
The Gurugram-based enterprise now deals with fancy bags, laptop covers, camera bags, and corporate gifts, made out of materials like seat belts and cargo belts, which are sourced from the Mayapuri market in Delhi. As per Mr. Malik, over 9,300 meters of car seat belts and 4,500 meters of cargo belts have been obtained from the landfills of North India so far.
"During the initial days, it used to be difficult for us to make vendors understand our requirements, since we had no reference in hand. However, the process became smooth as the time passed by," says Mr. Malik, adding that the designers, who are only women, handle the sourcing of materials. He maintains that the women move to the harsh industrial locations to get the belts, which are weighed in kilos, and take them back to Gurugram.
The belts are washed and cleaned before the process of bag-making starts, and later the final products are sold through online platforms. "One of the biggest challenges is to entice the young customers to the brand who would rather spend more on bigger brands but would not trust local businesses selling products between the range of Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000. There is always a skepticism among the Indian buyers in buying products of this amount. I believe, we need to capture their mood to sustain better," Mr. Malik says.
Despite this, Jaggery Bags has gained a good customer base, belonging from various fields, including films and the music industry involving artists. "People often come back to us for the products and we have been receiving a very good response since the very beginning," Mr. Malik adds. The brand has also been invited to various national and international events for the exhibition.
On the other hand, Mr. Malik has also represented his brand in a Tedx talk on the topic 'A waste to value tale' at American Embassy, New Delhi, back in November 2019. Like other businesses that suffered due to the Coronavirus-induced lockdown, even Jaggery Bags made zero sales during that time. However, it's because of the social and environmental impact created by the label that the brand is back on its feet with good sales.
Working on the idea of doing good for "people and the planet", the brand had got the seeds of sustainability sown long before as Gautam Mallik's maternal grandmother also used to make bags from old curtains decades ago.