Welcome to our interview series where we speak with purpose-driven business owners and ecopreneurs from around the globe. Every few weeks, we’ll dive into their journeys, learn about their wins and challenges, and the resources they couldn’t do without.
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Today’s guest is Krishna Kumar Sathiywageeswaran from Treepurasun.
Please tell us a little bit about who you are, your background, and what you did before starting your own business.
I am an engineer by profession and was working with mechanical and polymer engineering and happened to visit oil & gas, petro-chemical industries, and power plants in a number of countries to develop many new products and processes for client needs. In these experiences, I had a number of interactions on climate change, environmental impact & assessment, ecological degradation, loss of habitat for animals, human-animal conflicts etc.
What inspired you to create a purpose-driven company and how did you come up with the business idea?
Due to my industrial experiences, my concern for future generations grew faster, and urged me to speed up my greening efforts in order to leave a green world for future generations to come. So I co-founded, TREEPURASUN, meaning everything under the sun have to be green trees, as I started to realize that Trees are the most responsible beings than any other beings on earth. So I searched for the greening efforts happening around. Then I realized there were not enough plant nurseries available in villages, where many forests, and hills are located. So decided to take the rural nursery concept to the villages.
In your experience, what are the main challenges of starting and running a green business?
Though everyone knows about the need for greenery, the whole of the society and majority of the actions are anti-nature. Most of the buildings we build are from rocks and trees. Especially in rural areas, people still use firewood by cutting trees from forests. So it is even more difficult to develop green solutions for villages. In India, for the last few decades exodus from villages has started towards cities. So population in the villages is also more influenced by urban culture and lifestyles.
What is your business mission & purpose and why?
The business mission is to develop plant nurseries in every village and make trees available for plantations at an affordable price. The purpose is to give sustainable livelihood to farmers, who are earning meager income which is forcing them to leave villages and farming seeking a livelihood in cities. To reverse this migration and ensure decent living opportunities in villages, we are creating Villagepreneur ( Village entrepreneur ) programmes.
How does your work address societal and/or environmental issues?
From a societal angle we work on generating sustainable livelihood and on environmental issues – we provide the platform to generate more greenery alternatives to the already stressed government infrastructure. Here the villagers become entrepreneurs and generate income and their dependence on government subsidies comes down and gives them more dignity.
What are the most common mistakes you see green businesses make?
Common mistakes are higher capital investment on the increasing cost of land and poor marketing strategy mainly due to remote locations from the market. Though digital connectivity has improved a lot in villages developing business acumen among the rural folks is the challenge.
What makes your business unique?
In one stroke, we achieve two goals, sustainable livelihood and a green environment, making it a unique model. We are striving to percolate it on many levels.
Is there anything that you do outside of your business that is driven by similar (sustainability) objectives?
Yes, I work for an NGO, Responsible Citizens iYakkam, which is working on “Trees on Every Hills” a project for river rejuvenation. There too, the need for tree saplings is the pre-requisite. That too depends on lots of tree saplings to be planted on hills and reserve forests.
In which area of your business are you struggling the most to reduce your environmental impact?
To grow saplings, we have to use plastic grow bags. While planting trees these grow bags are torn off and thrown on soil, which directly leads to pollution. To prevent it, we are trying to develop ecologically bio degradable grow bags and re-use of the used grow bags to grow saplings again.
What’s your day-to-day like?
The day starts with working on the farm, visiting different farming sites, discussions with farmers’ groups, meeting government agencies, and developing strategies to market the saplings.
What do you like the most about the work you do?
Instead of repenting that our planet is polluted, the satisfaction that we are making every effort possible to green the planet.
How do you grow and scale your business, and what are the main growth constraints and opportunities?
First it needs to be established at the district level. Then this model will be replicated across the state. Main growth constraints are the stagnant attitude crept in the minds of the farmers due to the very challenging situation for farming and discouraging income from the main farm activities. Using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, farmers and villagers are encountering many diseases and many are indebted with deep loans. So we need to work continuously to make them come out of debt trapped situation and enable them to enjoy the fruits of the nursery. Though challenging, need for green saplings is growing and soon many farmers will start realizing growing saplings will be more profitable, less labor oriented, less capital intensive, less water requirement and quick turnaround of cash.
What green businesses/sectors do you see growing the fastest right now and/or will become mainstream within the next 10 years?
Value addition to farm produce will be the most sought after area. Post Corona pandemic, people have started realizing nutritious food is key to healthy living and expecting more value for money. So farmers who are able to give value added products will be able to hold the market in the longer run.
In your opinion, what are the top skills necessary to be a successful eco-entrepreneur?
Key skills – innovative ideas, ever ready for opportunities, flexible to adapt to every situation, money management and always in touch with the pulse of the market.
Any “lessons learned” or advice you can share with aspiring or current green business owners?
Whatever we put on the drawing board cannot be implementable in practice due to a number of factors involved in developing any progress. Many co-players may not be on the same page as we are and it may impact the progress and prosperity. But with persistence, other players do realize our ideas and may fall in the same line as we are.
What inspires you every day to wake up and keep going?
Every dawn is an opportunity in the process of evolution. Green gives more confidence to anyone so it is natural to get inspired from nature always.
Krishna Kumar Sathiywageeswaran, Treepurasun
Environmentalist, Natural Way Farmer, Entrepreneurs Trainer and a Poet
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