Indowud: Making Sustainable Furniture

 ‘Every minute, about 36 football field size of tree area is lost to deforestation.’

Source: conservation.org

The inspiration

The Bengani family has established a legacy in the plywood industry. When Varun’s little niece curiously asked him if the furniture can be made without cutting trees and animals losing their homes, he did not have an answer. A young girl questioning about the catastrophic damages the environment suffers to meet the human needs was enough to give him to think differently.

That is when he got thinking about the possibility of zero wood boards.

The relationship between man and nature, in the early days, was based on mutual love. Development meant anything that stayed for many years without any compromise in the quality and without harming any beings, be it the flora, fauna or the environment.

What if there was a product that resonated with these thoughts?

What if there was a product that supported greener earth for generations?

With population explosion barrelling towards 8 billion mark in 2020, pressing needs, lack of sustainable options and wrong choices have done enough irreversible damages already.
It was this realisation that Varun decided to join the dots amongst sustainability, development, longevity and nature.

Wood is a ubiquitous and essential part of our daily lives. Wood-based furniture dominates the global furniture market with more than 60% share in 2017.
Information Source.

Indowud Factory Building
Indowud Factory Building

The beginning

Chennai based Indowud have come up with their innovation of NFC board that is 100% Termite proof, waterproof and a zero wood board. It is a 100 % made in India product that looks, feels and works like wood/plywood in many ways.

Mr B.L. Bengani and his son Varun Bengani setup Indowud in 2019. Mr B.L. Bengani is a veteran in the plywood industry with experience of more than 30 years. With his diverse and thorough experience, he wanted to provide an alternative to the traditional wood-based plywood that’s used to make furniture.
The father-son duo travelled to various countries to meet scientists and experts and explore potential solutions and eventually came up with NFC i.e. Natural Fibre Composite. It is primarily composed of agricultural husks and PVC resin along with other additives. The NFC board is similar to the traditional plywood/MDF in look, feel & handling.

Indowud printed on NFC Board manufactured by Indowud
NFC Board manufactured by Indowud

A cut above the rest

They are the first movers in this field in India who have made NFC 100 % inhouse. Integration of Ahimsa Design Philosophy, that is rooted in Jainism, throughout the product life cycle, is also an exceptional aspect. This is manifested at the production stage since forests are not destroyed. When being used by customers, it keeps the termites at bay thus preventing harm to the applications, whether interior or exterior.
The users won’t have to spray pesticides and other chemicals or even take the risk of inhaling the toxic gases in the process of killing termites. It is a 100 per cent termite-proof product offering 33 years and 300 % warranty.

NFC offers additional benefits being water-proof, flame retardant & smoke suppressant, anti-fungal & bacterial, anti-rodent, is free from harmful ingredients and is formaldehyde-free. Unlike traditional wood, Indowud can be thermoformed to any shape and design.

The setup

The team comprises 40 people and the factory is located on the outskirts of Chennai. The raw materials are sourced from the nearby agricultural villages. Indowud is based on B2B model and has distributors across Southern, Central and Western parts of India. It also relies on digital marketing for generating awareness about the products and increasing their visibility.

Partnering with Farmers

The production process also favours the farmers and the environment. Indowud has partnered with the farmers and mill owners in the vicinity for procuring the agricultural paddy husk. These husks are generally burnt by the farmers that cause toxic air pollution. You must have heard about smog or the pirali burning, in the north. Even soil erosion is addressed to some extent as the large scale stubble burning otherwise decreases the productivity of the soil. Thus, the waste is managed, the environment is protected, and the farmers earn extra income by selling the waste.
Thus, the wholesome benefits and revamped design philosophy by Indowud helps to realize circular-economy.

Indowud partners with farmers to procure paddy husk
Indowud partners with farmers to procure paddy husk

Challenges

Indowud NFC is a relatively new product and it will take some time for people to understand that sustainability is within reach.

Since the wood-based furniture industry has been in place for many centuries, the current stakeholders are fixed in their habits. It’s difficult to make them switch from wood-based plyboards to the zero wood NFC boards despite similar cost and processing methods. The entrenched supply chains and networks require sustained efforts to transform. However, the demand has been picking up courtesy environmentally conscious consumers who are looking to integrate positive changes in their lifestyle post the pandemic. People want sustainable products and healthy homes for their families.

Products made using NFC Board by Indowud
Products made using NFC Board by Indowud

What does the future hold?

In the upcoming months, Indowud is planning to export NFC to countries like Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the USA. Their patent and GreenPro (from Indian Green Building Council – is accredited by Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) through GENICES – GEN’s Internationally Coordinated Ecolabelling System.) approval is pending that will bolster their recognition and export potential further. It’s also looking for product diversification and envisions to become a one-stop solution for all the furniture needs of the home. The team is contacting like-minded designers, architects and other entities who believe in similar principles as Indowud for the same.

During the short time since the inception of Indowud, Varun has found the answer to the question asked by his niece. Redesigned, pragmatic, eco-friendly and cost-effective innovations like Indowud NFC hold tremendous potential to address the pressing issues of current times.

There is immense inner satisfaction when one has an answer that there is a sustainable, better than the wood product to create your project, and most importantly, you don’t have to cut even a single tree to make your home a cosy and a warm one!


Article by Subhav Duggal, Team ulaunch, with inputs from Indowud.


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