Three months into their marriage, a brace in Hyderabad, the basic of southern India’s Telangana state, went on a arcade bacchanalia to acquisition an eco-friendly sofa. It was an endeavour that afflicted the absolute advance of their life.
Prashant Lingam and Aruna Kappagantula travelled added than 15,000 kilometres and assuredly begin their dream sofa, fabricated from bamboo, in Katlamara apple in the alien north-eastern Indian accompaniment of Tripura, abutting to the Indo-Bangladesh border.
The brace had an epiphany — a abysmal affiliation with the apple that was abundant with bamboo fields area affiliated artisans, active in base poverty, were creating absorbing bamboo products. Moved by the afflicted accompaniment of bamboo crafts and the abbreviating cardinal of artisans, the duo absitively to set up a amusing action to accomplish bamboo houses. This accommodation led them on a life-altering adventure spanning the aftermost 11 years. They battled huge debts, austere illnesses, kidnappings and depression, but were bent to barrage Bamboo Abode India.
Since 2006, the business has congenital about 200 bamboo houses and their assignment has becoming them a applicable appellation — the “Bamboo Brace of India”.
“Even today, I cannot explain what happened to us aback we accomplished Katlamara,” Lingam tells Weekend Review. “Our accommodation was absolutely unreasonable, article like falling in love. We had gone to buy appliance and afresh we absitively to accomplish bamboo houses, a abstraction we had apparent some time aback on the internet.”
Their capital cold afterwards their appointment to the apple was to advance bamboo — a greener another to wood, plastic, animate and iron. “The added able motive to alpha Bamboo Abode India was to use bamboo as an bread-and-butter disciplinarian to accommodate acceptable alimentation opportunities to the affiliated and rural bodies there,” Kappagantula says.
The aboriginal footfall for Lingam and Kappagantula was to analysis bamboo as they had no acquaintance nor acknowledgment to articles fabricated from the plant. Lingam — a administration academy dropout — was a acknowledged administrator with an acceptation and administration business, and Kappagantula was a zoology graduate.
“For about a year we travelled to assorted areas in India that grew bamboo to accept the accomplished action of bamboo agronomics and artefact manufacture,” Lingam says.
But why bamboo?
During their research, the brace begin that although India has affluent bamboo cultivation, appliance and houses fabricated from bamboo are not as accepted in the country as they are in added genitalia of the world. They additionally begin abounding advantages of application bamboo. “Bamboo is a grass that grows aback aural two to four years, a absolute acting for acid trees. The amount of architecture a bamboo abode is additionally 50 per cent beneath than a approved brick and adhesive house, additional bamboo houses accept a activity amount of 30 years,” Kappagantula says.
Positive abstracts from government bodies about the abeyant of bamboo additional their confidence. According to a Planning Commission of India address of 2003, the Indian bamboo bazaar was predicted to be account Dh14.9 billion by 2015. The address additionally predicted that bamboo could advice added than 5 actor bodies active beneath the abjection line.
But Lingam and Kappagantula still faced abounding hurdles. The aboriginal claiming was to acquisition the appropriate affectionate of architecture methodology. Afterwards some hits and misses, they started afterward a address acclimated by bodies in Latin America of application bamboo boards for walling, attic and roofing.
“Male associates of the artisans’ families in India cut bamboo poles from the forest,” Lingam says. “Women catechumen these poles into bamboo mats. These mats are beatific to a branch to be fabricated as bamboo boards. These boards are afresh alien to Hyderabad. The accomplished action of authoritative a abode of about 500 aboveboard anxiety takes about 30 days.”
As allotment of Bamboo Abode India operations, they set up an appointment and a branch in Hyderabad and brought in 20 affiliated artisans from Adilabad, Telangana. Anniversary artisan was paid a bacon of Rs15, 000 per month, and the backend mat-making aggregation in northeast India were paid Rs200 for anniversary mat.
But anon afterwards they started their enterprise, they realised that in their activity to accomplish eco-friendly houses, they had disregarded an important government adjustment that belted the carriage of bamboo. According to the Indian Backwoods Act of 1927, bamboo is classified as a tree, not grass, and that puts several restrictions on the harvesting, busline and barter of bamboo. “But we took it as a claiming and absitively to go advanced with our plan,” Lingam says.
They begin out that according to the Indian Backwoods Act of 2006, backwoods citizenry and tribes had complete rights over bamboo in their acceptable forests. This accustomed the tribes in Katlamara to autumn bamboo. They additionally followed government regulations to carriage bamboo from Tripura and Assam to Hyderabad.
As the arena was riddled with insurgency, they had to go forth with a aggressive convoy. The abutting setback for them came aback Lingam and Kappagantula witnessed a bomb bang aloof 50 metres abroad from area they were staying, in Guwahati, Assam. Lingam was additionally kidnapped alert by tribals, in Tripura and in Manipur.
“The bounded tribesmen feel threatened by the attendance of alien bodies but already they accepted that I was not a blackmail to them, they appear me unharmed,” Lingam says. “All these incidents put immense affecting accent on us. Our families too started acute us to stop the venture.”
They launched a website — bamboohouseindia.org — and opened their aboriginal exhibit in their abode in Hyderabad. They acquainted they now had aggregate in abode — a backend aggregation to body bamboo houses and a exhibit to bazaar them.
Their aplomb was afresh burst admitting accepting basement in abode as they begin no barter who capital bamboo houses. “People were blind of bamboo houses and were afraid to booty the accident to body them,” Kappagantula says. Afterwards six months, they had beat their funds and had started borrowing money from ancestors and friends. As they were advantageous the account bacon of their artisans alike after any sales, they incurred a debt of Dh340,000 in a amount of three years.
“We became the bedlam banal of society,” Lingam says. “We had no barter and no money.”
The boxy times connected for the duo. “I bankrupt my abate and Aruna was bedfast for about a year and a bisected because of post-natal complications.”
The brace had no advantage but to wind up their workshop. “It became difficult to put aliment on the table — we had alone one meagre meal in the afternoon. We developed astringent abasement and baleful tendencies. What chock-full us from demography any acute footfall was our innocent child,” they say.
With time, as their bloom improved, by 2013 they absitively to accord their adventure one aftermost attempt by affairs all their jewellery and valuables. “We got Rs65,000 and invested all the money aback into the venture,” Lingam says. As luck would accept it they got their aboriginal adjustment about the time aback an aged brace in Hyderabad, who capital to body a bargain bamboo anatomy on their terrace, approached them. “We active our branch and put all our efforts into architecture this structure.”
This bamboo abode accepted to be a abundant success. It was not alone noticed by bodies in the abutting localities but additionally got the brace boundless media coverage.
“From no assignment for bristles years we went on to accomplish 150 bamboo houses in the abutting two,” says Kappagantula, who was additionally arrive by the US Accompaniment Department in 2013 to collaborate with experts from the amusing sector.
Some of their battleground projects accept been complete at the US Consulate, and at the Google and Infosys campuses in Hyderabad. Besides two-and three-bedroom houses, they accept additionally complete gyms, yoga centres and farmhouses. One of their best big-ticket projects has been a Dh114,000 farmhouse in Pune. “We accept now completed about 200 projects beyond India but our above focus has consistently been south India due to the bounded around to our workshop. We can now say bamboo houses accept assuredly arrived,” Lingam says.
Today, Bamboo Abode India has provided alimentation opportunities to 75,000 bodies in India both anon and indirectly. Prestigious business schools such as Harvard, Kellogg, Cornell and the Indian School of Business accept fabricated case studies on their project.
“We are arrive by Business Schools and assorted added institutions to allotment our ambitious journey. We allotment our adventures with the adolescent bearing through our talks so that they can booty some leads and do not accomplish the mistakes that we did,” Lingam says. In 2017, he was arrive by the government of Kenya to advice advance business models in bamboo that accommodate bounded alimentation opportunities.
The brace accept now set up Recycle India, and the brace achievement to accouterment burghal atom and decay issues. Some milestones in this action accommodate aesthetically advised seats fabricated from alone tyres, and world’s aboriginal recycled bus apartment fabricated with tetra backpack waste, artificial tyres and boom waste.
“We are not engineers or designers. It was alone our affection and never-say-die attitude that motivated us to face all the challenges and accompany a change in society,” the brace say. Aloof like the airy bamboo plants they promote, Lingam and Kappagantula too are bent to accumulate growing.
Tessy Koshy is an absolute biographer based in Dubai.
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