How Civil Engineer Indrani Mukherjee is promoting sustainable development via Bamboo constructions
Born in Kolkata, Indrani Mukherjee spent her growing up years swinging between north East, South and East India. Her father was the joint director Finance in ONGC. Her initial years were spent at Agartala, Tripura and Kolkata. Indrani was a very active student in school. She was sharp in her studies and also took part in various extra-curricular activities. She is a trained classical dancer and has done many stage shows in her school days. Indrani's mother is a home maker and she feels that her mother sacrificed her own professional life to take care of her two daughters.
Indrani has spent about 7 years of her life in North Eastern part of India, an area abundant with Bamboo forests - the perfect amalgamation of beauty and tranquility. It won't be wrong to say that, this is where her love affair with Bamboos began.
Indrani completed her graduation in Civil Engineering from Bangalore University's Dayananda Sagar College Of Engineering in the year 1999. During her engineering college days, she met her senior Samrat Saha (who later became her life partner and startup co-founder). Indrani and Samrat are both very creative persons at heart. They always dreamt of creating new technologies related to Building Construction, Product development, Joineries, Treatment processes etc. from Eco-material in such a way that they are accepted not only in India, but all over the world.
After working at various important positions at several organisations as a Civil Engineer, Indrani decided to follow her heart and work on developing eco-friendly renewable solutions in construction. Indrani and Samrat started 'BAMBOOOZ' November 2010 and they are currently based out of Bengaluru. They have a highly skilled team of engineers, artisans and designers who are trained under the scheme of Govt. of India on Bamboo Structures & Bamboo Products initiated by social entrepreneur & renowned architect Mr. Richard Belho.
We got Indrani Mukherjee, Co-Founder and MD - BAMBOOOZ to feature in an exclusive interview with us to talk about her idea, her challenges, the big decisions they've made along the way and her thoughts about a sustainable future. Read on!
Indrani Mukherjee, Co-Founder & MD - BAMBOOOZ
CE: When did the idea of creating a startup about Bamboo first hit your mind?
Indrani Mukherjee: After working for different MNCs, the hidden desire for green and renewable solution to all structures & product was responsible for the formulation of these startup.
BAMBOOOZ was originated with an idea of communion with nature & sustainable development harping upon the use of Bamboo which is the most renewable material on earth and abundantly found in India and at the same time creating jobs for artisans & skilled labour. We are not only generating business but also spreading awareness on long forgotten possibilities of bamboo.
CE: How was your experience of working for UNICEF Perspective Plan 2025 SJDA? How did that happen?
Indrani Mukherjee: I was working as a Project Officer for the preparation of Perspective Plan 2025 for SJDA Govt of West Bengal. I got an offer from a friend and since it was an interesting job I opted for it and eventually got posted at Siliguri, West Bengal for almost 4 years.
As a Project Officer I got in-depth knowledge about rural India, its demographic division, problems and most importantly various bureaucratic hierarchies. I got the opportunity to work with the Architecture Department of IIT Kharagpur professors since they were the consultants for the project. It was an enriching learning experience for me.
CE: What kind of research & planning went on behind the startup? What were your findings and how did you make it from idea to inception?
Indrani Mukherjee: We studied a lot about Bamboo structures and products through journals, technical books, Indian Plywood Research Institute's website, online data, different government agencies who are working with Bamboo for couple of years. We found out that no players were working in an organised structure in this area. That gave us the courage to take our idea forward. We set up a commercially viable organisation which works with Bamboo. BAMBOOOZ is a commercial entity whose vision is to make India a green sustainable country.
CE: What were the initial challenges that you faced while starting up Bamboooz? How did you tackle them?
Indrani Mukherjee: In our case, challenges were and are huge. We are working with Bamboo which is not widely accepted as an alternative material for construction or products in the society. Creating awareness and knocking each door of big institutions, government agencies for our innovative solution itself has been a big challenge.
First and foremost thing necessary to be successful in today’s competitive environment is to be well informed & updated with all the developments happening in & around the world. In present time, everything is changing very fast including our life style, technologies, politics and what not. You have to constantly add value to your existing product/services & at the same time inculcate innovative thinking in your entrepreneurial strive.
BAMBOOOZ Team Members
CE: Was it difficult to convince family & friends about your decision to quit your job? When did they come to terms with it?
Indrani Mukherjee: As I am the first entrepreneur in my family, my father was not convinced when I quit my stable job and started a business of our own. However, the confidence we had in our idea when we started this business 5 years ago, made it imperative for us to quit our stable jobs.
My parents and my in laws both were government employees. Though both our parents are financially stable, we decided never to approach them while starting our business. We started our company “BAMBOOOZ” with our own funds in the year 2010.
CE: What was the major turning point in the journey of this startup? Who was your first big client and how was the experience of dealing with them?
Indrani Mukherjee: BAMBOOOZ established itself by introducing Bamboo boards for the first time in India in Vehicle body building. Bamboo boards received the approvals from Association of State Road Transport Undertakings, Ministry of Road Transport, GOI as an alternative material for Bus body building. KSRTC & BMTC were our first major clients and also the one who accepted our innovative endeavour. Introducing a new material is always challenging. Series of tests were conducted from IPRTI, Bengaluru, CIRT, Pune before Bamboo boards got an approval for an alternative material for bus body building.
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) was also one of our first major clients. Getting the support & encouragement from the chief engineer of TTD who is having a vast knowledge about alternative building material gave us a boost. He accepted our proposal in introducing innovative natural building material to sustain the environment of Tirumala hills. We've successfully developed a few bamboo structures & products like hand-made Bamboo Pallaki for Devasthanam & more such projects are in the pipeline.
Introducing Bamboo structures in premium institute of India like IIM-Bengaluru was always a dream for us. When we successfully fetched the order for executing the Bamboo Car parking shed at IIM-B campus, our dream turned into reality. We have designed an unique bamboo truss system for the structure at IIM-B campus.
Bamboooz Car Parking at IIM Bangalore Campus
Other than that, we have done many projects for developers including total environment building solutions, hotels, resorts, government, private organisations and schools.
Recently, India's biggest e-commerce portal - Amazon India has partnered with us for selling BAMBOOOZ’s unique crafts & utility items all over India. We are in the process of introducing the same on other e-commerce portals as well.
CE: Why should someone go for bamboo structures? What are the key points to remember for anyone who finds about you the first time?
Indrani Mukherjee: Bamboo can be used for making various structures like Gazebo, Resorts, Roof Top Structures, Eatery etc. Our most of the strictures are built by Bambusa Balcoa Bamboo which is a structural bamboo & its tensile strength is higher than mild steel.
A Bamboooz Eatery
Bamboo structures are not only aesthetically beautiful but also structurally stable and can last almost hundred years. Bamboo is an ideal material for construction in earth quake zones. This wonder grass tensile strength is 2800 per square inch while that of mild steel is 23,000 per square inch. This amazing quality opens up a world of possibilities in exploring bamboo potential as a highly durable material choice.
CE: What departments of the startup do you and Mr. Saha handle separately?
Indrani Mukherjee: I look after Design, Planning, Finance and Marketing aspects of BAMBOOOZ. My emphasis is on spreading awareness about alternative and renewable materials, aims to to set a process of change that meets both current and future needs.
Mr. Saha deals with Designs and Operations. He lays emphasis on training and skill development of artisans to create sustainable solutions that ensure quality of life for present and future generations.
CE: Being a woman entrepreneur, juggling family & work can be a daunting task. How do you handle pressure on both ends?
Indrani Mukherjee: I enjoy what I do. So there is no pressure as such but sometimes situation arises where, us womenpreneurs have to act intelligently. It’s the intrinsic ability of women to do multitasking.
CE: What do you love the most about being an entrepreneur? What is your advice to those who are just starting up?
Indrani Mukherjee: It’s the urge to create something new, something worthwhile and getting it accomplished is what I love most in my entrepreneurial journey.
Entrepreneurship is the process of starting a business of your own & it is totally different from taking up a job. Entrepreneurial journey is a roller coaster ride. You face challenges every day. It's your risk taking capacity and intuitive mind which makes you survive in this journey
CE: What are your views about the sustainable & green infrastructure development in India? What is the scope and future?
Indrani Mukherjee: Our present situation in terms of sustainable & green infrastructure in India is moderate. A growing number of infrastructure companies in India are slowly responding to issues pertaining to environment degradation by adopting energy-efficient technologies. Many infrastructure projects are being completed using environment-friendly version of basic raw materials such as cement; and a growing number of infrastructure companies are consulting environmentalists.
Many companies have started to invest more in research and development to address green infrastructure issues including improving designs in water and energy related services. At this juncture, government support and dissemination of information are required to make Indian infrastructure sustainable.
CE: Any message for your readers?
Indrani Mukherjee: New budding entrepreneurs should take up their entrepreneurial strive with 100% dedication & hard work. They should be honest, confident & focused in their endeavour & should develop the attribute of taking calculative risk.
It's not that everyone in these world will agree with your idea but it's you who has to have faith in your idea and really work hard to make it a successful venture. Always remember in the entrepreneurial spirit that failure is a way to learn.