A Conversation from The Climapreneur Show with Shweta Dalmia (Episode 4)
Shikha Singla, Founder MaSu Living
Say no to plastic, One mat at a time.
Now, a couple of days back, I have started practicing yoga full-fledged. We would squeeze out that 45 mins in the morning every day before we get into the hustle and work of the day. I was hunting for an organic yoga mat. I was really sick with these foam yoga mats with these foam pieces sticking all over the face. After some point of time if we keep using them that foam pieces start coming out and that’s quite a hassle and there was a typical rubber smell to it. I put a lot of research into it. So, I found out a few pseudo-eco-friendly yoga mats which were called 100% eco-friendly. talking to a lot of people, other yoga practitioners about the issues that they faced like somebody told me about they developed these rashes because of regular usage of these PVC mats, and as we know, these mats are really harmful over a long period of time, when you are practicing regularly on them, they are made up of heavy metals like lead, which in the long run, they are carcinogenic.
What is MaSu Living? What is it about ?
So, I will start off with you know, telling you what Masu is because there are a lot of people who ask me, as they have never heard of this term, what does it mean or how is it related or connected to what we do? Masu, originally, it’s a square wooden box. It is used to measure rice in Japan. The specialty of this box is that it is been made in such a way that there are no joints anywhere. Over a period of time, this box became a symbol of sustainability in Japan. This completely recyclable box. So, I was really inspired by Japanese culture and tradition especially after I read this book Ikigai so I went deeper into their culture, and I came across this term which is like a symbol of sustainability there. And that’s how we picked up the term Masu
Our venture, which is a platform for only sustainable and conscious products, a platform for artisans, homemakers, and small home-grown brands that only make mindful products. So that’s how MaSu Living is basically a shop for good living. All the products that we deal in are kind to the body and kind to the planet. We specialize in yoga products and we have 100% plant-based organic yoga products starting from yoga mats to cork blocks to other yoga accessories.
How did you decide that you had to do yoga products with MaSu Living?
It’s been quite a journey, for me, sustainability and mindful living have been a part of my life since childhood. So, the kind of household, the typical Indian household, that we have been brought up with grandmother around, she didn’t know the term sustainability, but she was such a flag bearer of sustainability she would always tell us how consumption of plastic was harmful to not just us, to the environment. How consumption of excessive microwave was harmful. We would always use an earthen pot as a natural watercooler. She was really good at handwork. She used to make these beautiful summer cotton dresses for me and whatever leftover cloth would be there she would make a nice hairband out of it or a handkerchief out of it or a bow out of it. So, a complete zero waste without knowing it’s zero waste. So, I have been bought up learning all those things, seeing all those things. I would value that dress more than something my mother would buy from a retail store. As kids that nylon tags would hurt I have always appreciated these homegrown things, homemade things. As I grew up, I was also supporting a lot of people around me who were doing something of their own. making achars(pickles) at home, baking cookies at home. I would always prefer buying from them than buying from a regular retail store. I would really encourage them, promote them to other people. So, that has always been a part of my life, engraved in me.
Now, a couple of days back, I have started practicing yoga full-fledged. Like I was always onto yoga in some form or the other, but not like a regular yoga practitioner. So, we did a couple of training, me and my husband, and together we have started this yoga journey. And I can’t tell you, it was such a blissful one, I am sure you would have seen some people in the family and friends, who practiced yoga and are slightly different from others. In certain ways, I mean the ways they think or express or, just more conscious and mindful about things, that happen, that change happened and yoga became a daily routine. We would squeeze out that 45 mins in the morning every day before we get into the hustle and work of the day. So, while practicing yoga, the feeling of sustainability and conscious living became stronger. Because yoga is very much connected to sustainability at various levels.
I was hunting for an organic yoga mat. I was really sick with these foam yoga mats with these foam pieces sticking all over the face. After some point of time if we keep using them that foam pieces start coming out and that’s quite a hassle and there was a typical rubber smell to it which I was not appreciating beyond a point. While I was looking for an organic yoga mat to great surprise, I found out that there were not too many options in India or abroad. I checked a lot of sites, abroad. So, what I could see was, there were a few 100% organic options that were exuberantly priced like INR 7 thousand. We were like, we want to buy two, but this was quite a lot. Because this was not something that we are looking at. So, I put a lot of research into it. So, I found out a few pseudo-eco-friendly yoga mats which were called 100% eco-friendly but actually, they had a black layer of Evo underneath or something. Which was again a form of PVC and is equally harmful. So, these things happened simultaneously when I was researching a lot about it, talking to a lot of people, other yoga practitioners about the issues that they faced like somebody told me about they developed these rashes because of regular usage of these PVC mats, and as we know, these mats are really harmful over a long period of time, when you are practicing regularly on them, they are made up of heavy metals like lead, which in the long run, they are carcinogenic.
So, nevertheless, we were getting more and more into it. And this intrigued us. So, that is how I came up with this idea of why not I start my line of yoga product because there is definitely a gap after I spoke to a lot of people. So that’s how, my hometown being Kolkata, my family, I have people into jute, jute manufacturing. So, that is how I came up with this idea.
Why not Jute.
It’s the most beautiful, eco-friendly material around. We do not use it much in our daily life.
Come to think of it, it’s quite an eco-friendly substance to adopt in various aspects. So, that is how we came with jute and natural rubber for it. Plant rubber. And we came up with jute mats. We created different variants; one was for beginners. It had to have more cushioning. So, we had to use layers of cotton underneath. Another was for the practitioners where the cushioning was not the main factor. The main factor was that it should have excellent grip because of the asanas that you want to perform. That how we came up with the natural rubber once which sticks onto any surface you keep it on to. Then we came up with the cork blocks, then we came up with the pads. So now we have a complete range of yoga products that we manufacture. Our jute artisans manufacture for us. In a way this also empowers them, the jute artisans also, now that they have more avenues, not only mats, like bags a whole lot of avenues have opened up for them. So that was how we started and that was quite a long journey of how we got to it. A lot of research had got to the products and then we launched it online.
While building up Masu, what challenges did you face?
So, the kind of challenge that everyone faced this last year. Our entire supply chain was newly established. But, due to this, everything got affected to a great extent. Entire communication, the entire supply chain got disrupted. So that was the major challenge that we faced in the initial part of the journey because we were just setting up, we were just gearing up and things have just rolled on for us when this happened. People have suddenly had this urge you know start healthy practices at home. Home yoga practice and online yoga. So, the demand for this has really increased. It is a very positive thing for us. Not just yoga products, for natural yoga products, because people realize how it is important not just for them but for the environment with everything happening around us it definitely is an eye-opener for people. People are becoming more and more conscious about things like this and that was a kind of major journey which major hurdle which again turned into a blessing in a way opportunity.
But yes, there are still a lot of people, a lot of myths around sustainable products.
If I give you a small example of a plastic toothbrush and a bamboo toothbrush. Plastic toothbrush cost around 20 rupees to 150 rupees; a bamboo toothbrush will cost around 100 rupees to 250 rupees depending upon the quality. Both you will use a maximum of 2 times a day be it plastic or bamboo. But once you are done using it the plastic brush will exist on the Earth for 400 years. And the bamboo brush will only exist for 4 months. So, what would you like to choose although there is a lot of price difference between the two products?
You definitely would want to go with the bamboo brush. So, this is the gap, there is a lack of awareness. So, when people start comparing apple to apple price of an eco-friendly product and a regular product, then the price is not justified to them, but when you actually create that awareness and build this kind of synergy and give them an example and show them how much difference it makes that is the point when people get awoke about it or realize it. So, there is a long journey wherein a lot of people are unaware and it is our responsibility and I would like to give a huge round of applause to you for the work you are doing because ultimately through these sessions also Climapreneur is actually bringing more and more awareness to such concepts, to sustainability, to climate action which is great because in my personal journey, I have been into this and I have seen people. The major issue is a lack of awareness. So once that starts building up, once people become more awoke about it all these hurdles will go way and people will appreciate a slight change of price they are having to pay, they will appreciate that.
How has yoga helped you personally in your journey as a Climapreneur?
Yoga clearly over a period of time, changes you for good. It makes you more mindful and more connected to who you are. As I told you since childhood, I have been like that. Those values have been in me. Yoga helped to bring that to the forefront. It connected me to who I was always. It just makes you mindful of everything around you. You start appreciating the small things. You start realizing how small things are harmful to you or the people around you. So, you start appreciating things, you start appreciating life as a whole and you want to do things that are good to not just yourself but to the environment and other people.
That’s what yoga did to me personally apart from all the health benefits which are innumerable. I would always appreciate how it made me more mindful and connected me to who I am truly.
One piece of advice you would like to give youth or to the people who are starting their journey or are in the middle of their journeys to build something sustainable.
So, I would like to quote here. The more sustainable T-shirt is the one that you don’t buy. This is a very humorous quote that I came across. So, coming this from an entrepreneur, it could be funny because I am ultimately here to make sales also but talking about sustainability let’s not forget less is more. Minimalism is something that we need to adopt. With new brands coming up, sustainable products becoming accessible it’s great. It’s great for all of us but again we have to realize what we need and not hoard things just because they are sustainable and overnight just switch off, switch whatever you have currently, just remove them and buy sustainable products that is not the way. I would really urge people and suggest please use up whatever you currently have and then make the gradual change because just hoarding products and making the overnight shift is then that will be a very short-termed action for you, and it will not be sustainable. So, this is the kind of balance I also maintain being an entrepreneur running a business.
Message for all the yoga lovers, trainers.
I think they are already doing great work if they are into yoga, I am sure the rest of the things are already sorted. The message that I would like to give them is to do try the Masu Living platform and do try the yoga products from Masu Living and yes, do let me know the feedback. Because when I get upfront first-hand feedback from yoga experts that is what has helped me over a period of time to make the right changes on the products so I would really want the practitioners and experts to try our organic and eco-friendly products because they are the ones who are going to send out the message. There are a lot of yoga trainers, if they are ones who start sending this product, they would send a good message to their students, be it online or regular classes that would encourage them to
Say no to plastic, One mat at a time.