<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Started by Urvashi and Amish Mody in 2006, Eco Corner has slowly and steadily garnered quite a fan following for their unique, colourful, funky and environmentally friendly products that include home accessories, organic and natural food, aroma products, handbags, baskets and planters, ceramic cups and vases and exclusive handmade stationary products. In a day and age when we’re dealing with a surplus of waste and mountains of garbage that will take eons to biodegrade (if at all), Eco Corner is certainly a step in the right direction. When you see the shop, you can’t help but feel invited to at least browse: it’s colourful, well lit and full of interesting nick-knacks.
We had a talk with co-founder Urvashi Modi and have a sampling of product pictures for you.
What made you want to start this shop?
We were manufacturers of hand made stationery and were supplying it across the country. Paper has its limitations. So we decided to get into eco friendly products beyond paper. Our first store was at Atria in 2006. It went beyond paper. We wanted to use natural products made by NGOs and rural artisans. 75% of our products are now made by them. The rest are our private labels and some are imported from South East Asia.
What sort of running around did you have to do to get it going?
Lots of investments take place. When you work with rural artisans they have to have 100 per cent advance. They need their money. They can’t give me products on credit. That was a task at the time to fill up a store of 200 sq feet. We also had our own stationery though.
What is unique about Eco Corner as compared to Bombay Store, Good Earth and other shops like that?
90 per cent of the products are made in India. We offer a wide range of products. It could be a bath and body product, Ganpati idols, bins made from recycled paper, film coasters. The products are contemporary and traditional. With Bombay Store it’s about souvenirs and gifting. But what sets us apart is the range and variety we offer and people usually buy our products for themselves.
You shifted to a bigger shop within the Phoenix Mills area recently. Does that mean business is good?
It’s a larger store and yes business is doing well. We’ve tied up with Landmark bookstores all over India too. So now there’s an Eco Corner section in every store.
What’s your best selling item?
I would say the cushion covers, the recycled newspaper collection and our own collection of handmade stationery.
You’ve expanded to other cities too, how are they different from Mumbai and which city do you think is the most ‘eco friendly’?
South India is the most eco friendly. In Bangalore and Chennai they’re great. They have a lot more knowledge about these products. People in Bombay and Delhi don’t really follow it. People pick up products here because they’re cool. Eco friendliness is a secondary factor.
A friend of mine commented that you should to have tags on some of your craft products so that you know what they are used for or can be used for…
We have shelf talkers that talk about the individual range. On individual products we are looking at doing that in the long run.
How come your coaster sets with movie prints on them are so exorbitantly priced at Rs 900/-?
The quality is very good. In the market you get coasters that are half the thickness. There’s also a very nice packaging. We have a lovely range of designs that we’re offering that are unique.
What other eco friendly initiatives are you involved in?
While at Palladium, on Earth Day we started a campaign of recycling tetra packs. We had a bin at the shop and we would send it to the factory, which recycled the tetra packs. Now, we don’t collect it at our store level but we do it with some residential buildings and schools. I talk to a lot of school children about how they can lead a very eco friendly life. We teach them how to make a bag out of newspaper. I go to women’s clubs to show them how to go eco-friendly at home. And if people are interested in recycling their Tetra packs, whether they are milk or whatever then they can take the used Tetra packs to the nearest Sahakari Bhandar where they get them recycled for other purposes.