Indian women post

Renuka Shah Shows Us Her Magical Garden That She Grew Out Of Pencils

At Indian Women Blog, we are overwhelmed by the number of people that are coming up with environmental startups.

The brand, Jalebi, in particular, will attract people who are obsessed with stationery. Ah, that fragrance of the fresh stationery.

Renuka was an Interior Designer before she realized that she wanted to do something for the environment. After Renuka delivered her first child, she knew that she wanted to do something different.

Renuka discovered that the seed paper wasn’t a familiar concept in India, but was fairly popular in the US. She then found out about an exporter in Jaipur who was working with the seed paper.

That’s when my family suggested that I shouldn’t work with just seed paper, and think outside the box. And so, we decided to make pencils. Wooden pencils were a big NO, so we decided to create pencils made out of paper. And so, the Jalebi came about in December 2014.

Me: Children tend to keep losing their pencils. Right?

Renuka: Yes, so these pencils also ensure that they don’t lose their pencils because they want to preserve it till the end to sow the seeds. Though you don’t need to preserve the pencil till the end, you can plant it after a few days of usage, too. Also, the children break the habit of chewing on the pencils.

Me: What is the secret behind the name Jalebi?

Renuka: It is shaped like Karma. What goes in, comes out. What you sow, you reap!

Me: How have home-grown vegetables contributed to the health of your family?

Renuka: Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of having a garden in a city like Mumbai. Though I have small plants! My mother, back in Pune, has a huge garden. She plants all the pencils on her terrace, and whenever we visit her, we enjoy all the fruits. They are all organic, healthy, and taste delicious, too.

Me: One failure with Jalebi that has helped you grow?

Renuka: When we launched Jalebi, we began with 5 simple and five exotic types of seeds. Exotic plants take the time to grow, and sometimes don’t grow at all. I think that was a mistake. Not everyone could relate to them.

Though, tomatoes and chilies were high in demand, and so were basil and marigold. In fact, we started mixing marigold and basil together and realized later that it was a wonderful combination.

We also had inquiries for exotic plants like lemons and strawberries. Well, see these were the drawbacks, too. We had to say no. We didn’t want to provide seeds of something that wouldn’t grow easily.

Me: What are the shelf lives of the seeds?

Renuka: Every seed has a shelf life of 10-12 months. In some cases, the shelf life of the product needs to be more than 12 months. For example, if we’re making calendars, the shelf life is over a year. Such seeds stay longer.

Me: One stationery you have still preserved from school days?

Renuka: Haha, it’s my old diary made of handmade paper. I’ve taken it with me around so much! Back in college when I was living with my grandparents, I had it there, and now that I’m married, I still have it hiding away in the house. Though, there’s nothing secretive inside the diary… I promise you!

Me: 3 things that made you chew on your pencil during business planning?

Renuka: First, in order to convince others, I had to convince myself that it would work. Only once I was settled with that thought, I proceeded with the project. Second, people needed to be able to relate to it. We live in a time of eco-friendly, so that was not a problem. Third, there were the hiccups of manufacturing that exists with everyone.

Me: Is there someone who specifically designs the products?

Renuka: Not really. We do it ourselves. We wanted to keep it basic, though, we try to keep the pencils in the same colors as the plant they would grow!

Me: Tell us a little about your garden.

Renuka: I’m very fond of flowers, I have Mogra, rose, even some grains! Then, of course, there are tomato and chili. It makes me feel proud of myself.

If you want to try a hand at gardening with Jalebi, you can buy the products

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"Promoting natural products and helping nature is the least we can contribute as a person"

Renuka Shah