When Jenny Pinto decided to leave the film industry in the ’90s, it was a bold move in many ways. For Jenny, leaving this world meant leaving behind a fast-paced life full of possibilities and living a completely new life. She decided that she would try something new, but moving into a business she herself had no idea about was not that easy.
by pinto The Better India Told Ko, “I grew up in Mumbai and I started my work from this city too. Right before liberalisation, it was a very good time to be in the advertising world.”
changed my mind after becoming a mother
As long as life was going on a flat track, everything was fine. But when Jenny became a mother, she realized her responsibilities. Questions began to arise in his mind about consumerism and the environment. “I started thinking about how and what kind of world I wanted to raise my child in,” she says. For Jenny, who is passionate about the environment, it was time to take a step towards a clean world away from pollution, but she did not know what she would do for it.
Jenny probably didn’t even realize this new path started by Jenny would take her to such heights. Today she has become a leading name in India’s sustainable paper and lighting industry. Their homegrown brand ‘Urja’ is manufacturing everything from sophisticated lighting to craft home accessories and all these products are made from recycled waste.
When the question was about saving the environment
Jenny also makes paper from bananas. According to him, his attempt to make paper from bananas was started by accident. She says, “I left Mumbai at the age of about thirty and moved to Bangalore. The question arose in my mind that what can I do to save the environment? I started learning to make utensils there. During that time I got a chance to go to the lecture-demonstration for handmade paper.
Due to that one occasion, his interest in producing eco-friendly paper started increasing. In 1998 he opened his own small studio. It was the first studio of its kind in India. Jenny had become perfect in the art of papermaking. During this time he had learned a lot from his mistakes and experience.
According to the 2011 Census, only 27 per cent of waste paper and 22 per cent of agricultural waste are used for making eco-friendly paper. Till a decade ago, the situation was even more dire. He said, “I learned to make paper from banana fiber, which is completely chemical free and transparent. At that time no one in India was making paper on such a small scale, but there were many enterprises in America that were working on it.”
Learned The Art Of Making Sustainable Lighting From Paper In Portland
In 2000, Jenny spent a few months in Portland. There he learned with Helen Hebert to make paper from natural fibers and use them for lighting. Jenny believes that making paper is not a difficult task, but it needs special attention given how close it is to the environment.
She says, “Paper is made from plant cellulose. Its material is natural, but the way we make paper, the source of its material, the process of extracting it and producing it is completely different.” She adds, “In this whole process the fiber is cooked in water and additives and then the pulp is molded into paper.”
She knew that this would lead to more water consumption. He also found a solution for this. He had set up a separate unit to conserve and recycle rain water. She recycles the water used to make paper and then uses that water to irrigate the plants in her garden.
Challenges still to come…
Jenny said, “I always use the least toxic additive in paper making. For example, fiber is cooked in washing soda instead of caustic soda. The paper made in this way can be recycled and after use it can also be safely turned into compost.
Jenny had mastered this difficult process of making paper, but there were many other challenges she had to face in order to pursue this work. To start small, Jenny had to persuade machine manufacturers to offer smaller-sized equipment. A new technology also meant tackling the shortage of skilled craftsmen to do the new work. They also had to find suppliers of agricultural waste such as banana fiber.
She says, “After some time, I found some manufacturers whom I had convinced to make small beaters and presses. It also took a long time to find the main raw material for paper making i.e. banana fiber, but eventually I found that too. It was being used for the craft industry.”
LinkedIn, Google and Reliance also expressed confidence
It was also a difficult task to convince people that paper can also be a good option for interior decoration of homes. To deal with this trouble, he resorted to exhibitions. There he talked to the audience about his concept and also took their opinion about it.
She explains, “A group of architects who came in contact with international designers such as Isamu Noguchi and Ingo Maurer were already using paper brilliantly in lighting. It made my job a little easier.” Over time it became a big name in the energy, lighting and decoration industry. The brand has also collaborated with several major companies in the hospitality and corporate sector such as Fatty Bao, Yazoo, GoNative, LinkedIn, Google and Reliance.
For its production, Jenny found some artisans near the house. The rural artisans settled in Bengaluru are known for their understanding of handicrafts as well. “He was a quick learner and enjoys working with natural materials. These people came to us in search of work and stayed with us for many years.” Jenny had trained these artisans herself. Today there are about 50 men and women working with him.
How Urja became a household brand
In the year 2018, Genie transformed its products into a full-fledged homegrown brand called Urja. His brand, which makes designer lights from sustainable materials, got the support of skilled entrepreneurs like Radesh Shetty. He invested money to further this business. Jenny says, “We are using mine waste and cork waste from industries for spurious cement. Our new material is Lantana Camera, which is now considered a major threat to forests and wildlife in Central and South India.”
What is the purpose?
Their aim is to preserve anything that can be repurposed and recycled with this characteristic. She explains, “We make lamps, door handles, and decor items out of faux cement. Water is recycled as much as possible, making paper. Many types of lamps are made from woven paper. Leftover cork is recycled to make coasters and other products.”
Ever since starting this business, Jenny has noticed that people are curious to know what is being made and how. She says, “Now people focus on where they are getting their products from. Often this is also part of the tender for the project. They give preference to locally made products.”
If you too are looking for sustainable lighting for your home, check out Energy Products here (https://www.oorjaa.in/).
Original article: Riya Gupta
Editing: Archana Dubey
Also read: First hard-working engineer, then left job, now cleaning ponds
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