Thenga, according to the legendary Malayalam storyteller Vaikom Muhammed Basheer, “is the moral of the story.” When Maria Kuriakose got the business bug three years ago, she focused on “Thenga,” which is Malayalam for “coconut.”
She creates cookware, tableware, and décor items from the common coconut shells through her modest business in Palakkad. Thenga has expanded internationally three years after achieving popularity in India. Customers from other countries can now place direct orders through the company’s website.
When Maria made the decision to leave her lucrative career in Mumbai and launch a business in Kerala, she said she was tormented by several worries.
But now that Thenga has achieved popularity, I can claim that I have realized my ambition of starting a business that sells eco-friendly goods. I feel more equipped to overcome all obstacles thanks to this adventure, remarked Maria.
The main draw of Thenga is its line of toxic-free, environmentally friendly items. The heart of “Thenga” is a group of 12 craftsmen since every single item is manufactured by hand.
Maria encountered several difficulties as she worked toward her goal of starting her own business.
“I had far too many inquiries from folks about leaving my work. However, I was committed to my career since my parents gave me their complete backing. They urged me to pursue a career in business,” the woman stated.
“But even then, it wasn’t a cakewalk for me. The production of these entirely handmade goods was a difficult effort. Customers first rejected our items because of the size discrepancies. They claimed that the cookware and tableware were not the right size according to their requirements. But with careful preparation and a lot of work, we were able to resolve them,” Maria said.
Thenga made a significant leap by entering the export market, which symbolized the company’s development.
Thenga has increased its online sales in addition to exports by using well-known e-commerce sites like Amazon, Jio Mart, and First Cry, among others.
“The favorable feedback from customers has been really encouraging. The majority of the clients come from Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, and other international nations. They are interested in buying the goods since they are aware that consumption has no negative effects on the environment. Actually, Maria stated, “the replies from the clients have beyond our expectations.
Thenga just sent 40,000 pieces to Denmark. The Netherlands and Switzerland have been sending inquiries to this little business in Sultanpet, Palakkad.
We are now concentrating on exports. The domestic market continues to account for the majority of the income. We receive orders from Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi during the festive seasons, such as Diwali. We reached a revenue of Rs 1 crore in the most recent fiscal year. I’m overjoyed that my efforts have been successful,” the young businessman added.
When most young people in India want to go, Maria pledged to stay and establish a company when she finished her education. ‘Thenga’ was created as a result of her drive to publicize a Keralan native product and her sense of obligation to preserve the environment.
Maria wanted to investigate the potential of a value-added product from coconut because it is Kerala’s trademark. Her investigation revealed the enormous potential for kitchenware produced from coconut shells.
“I gave ‘Thenga’ my whole attention after leaving my corporate career. But making the switch from an employee to an entrepreneur wasn’t simple. Too many people questioned my decision to leave my well-paying job after receiving my MBA. I was, however, preoccupied with my desire to launch a company that would not harm the environment. The marketing of a Keralan product and money generating were both crucial at the same time. When we are creating value for an indigenous product, our economy will gain from a business. I’m glad that I was able to achieve my objectives with ‘Thenga,’ she continued.
To benefit nature
The term “Thenga” designates a campaign for environmental sustainability.
“I was dissatisfied with Mumbai’s corporate life. I couldn’t wait to return to Kerala. Actually, I intended to start a business that would allow me to fulfill my duty to preserve the environment. Additionally, the production procedure is straightforward and eco-friendly. In the areas of cookware, tableware, garden, and décor, we have about 40 items. None of these goods endanger the environment in any way. “Neither the soil nor the air are polluted when a customer replaces a product with a new one,” Maria remarked.
“No one can be completely environmentally friendly. But when you make the decision to buy coconut shell items, you significantly aid in the preservation of nature, she noted.
People who are concerned about their health place a premium on consuming organic foods. However, they disregard the negative effects of the poisons they eat by using plastic or aluminum cutlery. However, items created from coconut shells never hurt the environment.
“Our goods are entirely free of toxins. On our items, we don’t apply chemical or color varnish. Due to the sanding and polishing procedure, they still have their rich brown color. The pieces are made glossy with only coconut oil. One wipe with coconut oil will restore the color if the product over time loses its natural radiance, according to Maria.
She emphasized that there is no evidence to support the claim that eating meals prepared in coconut shell products is healthy. But ‘Thenga’ goods are a safe bet compared to plastic and other chemical-containing materials.
Why use coconut husks?
Businesses concentrate on coconut oil and milk even though a coconut tree’s entire body may be utilized to produce a variety of byproducts. Additionally, only craft shops or expos display trinkets manufactured from coconut shells. Taking note of this aspect, Maria looked into goods that might be made from coconut shells, which are frequently used as an alternative to firewood or organic use-and-throw cups.
She was able to envision a great strategy for turning coconut shells into “chiratta,” Malayalam meaning kitchenware, thanks to her studies.
According to Maria, coconut shells are exceptionally sturdy compared to other natural materials, thus things manufactured from them endure a very long time. The ideal product to replace plastic, steel, or glass is this one, thus. If there is something you wish to get rid of, just break it up into little bits and add it to the soil. Then it will return to the soil without having any negative effects on the ecosystem, she noted.
empowerment of women
Another strength of this company is its significant female workforce. Seven of the 12 craftspeople are female. Women manage the departments in charge of operations, social media, and customer relations.
“The majority of our employees are women who took a professional sabbatical to care for their families. Considering their numerous responsibilities as a mother, wife, and daughter, flexible working hours are offered. Most of them used to bring their kids with them to work. The office will serve as a resource for female employees, according to Maria, who is also the mother of Rahel, an 11-month-old.
‘Thenga’ has gone a long way from the original rejection. Thenga now receives coconut shells from oil mills. Every item is a different size. Therefore, mills will cut the shells to our specifications and send them to us, explained Maria.
“We have a lot of intricate procedures to manage as we try to attract overseas clients. ‘Thenga’ is a tiny company, therefore we are only beginning to master the paperwork and regulations associated with exporting,” she continued.
The “Thenga” team has numerous objectives in mind, one of which is the introduction of toys to replace plastic toys.
“Plastic toys are harmful to infants. I thus want to create toys out of coconut shells. Jewelry is the other category on which we are concentrating. Some had been created by us for an exhibition. In the future, I want to put more effort into creating more intriguing things, such jewelry, toys, and packaging boxes,” Maria remarked.
‘Thenga’ is, in Maria’s opinion, a way of life that calls on everyone to make a tiny effort to preserve the environment and advance the national economy.