Plastic bags a threat to paper bag making business
Dimapur, Feb. 24 (EMN): Three siblings — Therila Sangtam, Oditemsu and Lucius Thonger — started TOL Enterprise, a paper bag manufacturing unit at Aoyimti village, Dimapur, months after Nagaland government imposed a total ban of single-use plastics in the state but easy availability of plastic bags in the market has led to a plunge in the demand for their product.
Speaking to Eastern Mirror, Sangtam said that the journey had not been ‘smooth sailing’ as they had to shut down the business due to the pandemic and their one-year target was ‘jeopardised’.
The enterprise, which makes grocery and shopping bags as well as customised and handmade bags, became operational only after the government announced lockdown relaxation through unlock 1,. It employed 30 people, half of whom were women, and reached out to customers via Instagram.
“However, the business was not that good as most of the shops were closed. But thankfully local baker business was booming during the pandemic in Nagaland and the baker community was a big source of income for them,” Sangtam shared.
She said that TOL Enterprise is a community-based venture with most of the employees residing in Aoyimti locality. She added that lots of unemployed youths joined during the pandemic and homemakers too were given opportunities to earn through the enterprise. The employees were provided the materials to work from home after giving training for one or two weeks and payment was done accordingly.
The prices of the bags range from INR 2 to INR 5 depending on the size.
When asked about the issues they face, Sangtam said that most of the shops are reluctant to do away with plastic bags.
‘There are some who use paper bags but still then, to compete with plastic bags is very difficult as it is abundantly available in the market,’ she said.
Initially, when the government banned the use of plastic bags, paper bag business was ‘going good’ and even the government was keeping a check on it, she said.
“But once the pandemic started, they had diverted their focus on sanitisation norms and the usage of plastic bags has become normal as earlier and it is one of the most disappointing factors,” she added.
She also informed that another roadblock they are facing is the pricing of paper bag. She shared that they are trying to make the price as competitive as possible but at the same time do not want to run on a loss as their production is ‘very small’ compared to other big companies.
She said that it will be a great relief for them if they find a reliable distributor for their products and if the state government approves their proposed project.
When asked how she took up the venture, Sangtam said she prepared for competitive exams for a year as ‘most parents’ wanted so, but she had always wanted to venture into business since her college days.
After working with an NGO, she took up the new venture after doing some research on the kind of business that would do well in Nagaland.
The entrepreneur informed that they brought the paper bag making machine from Maharashtra and two employees were sent to the state for training. The full capacity of the machine is about 150 paper bags per minute but they could produce only 120 bags due to low voltage, she informed, adding that the thickest material they use is 120 and 100 GSM, which is durable for grocery packages.
They are planning to expand the business and make packing boxes too.
She said that the enterprise currently supplies paper bags to Arunachal Pradesh, Kohima and Mokokchung as well and wants to distribute grocery paper bags across the state.
Till date, they have received orders for more than 200 customised paper bags.