Time to take a bamboo pick

Shillong Bamboo’s eco-friendly products aim to replace plastic

The Shillong Times

By Nabamita Mitra

Making the world plastic-free is a daunting task and all stakeholders need to have equal awareness to make the ‘dream’ a reality. Bandap Dewkhaid, the award-winning bamboo artist, is humbly contributing to the fight against the deadly polymer that is responsible for polluting the environment and killing precious water sources. Dewkhaid started Shillong Bamboo in 2015. The artist and his team make innovative and eco-friendly products using the natural resource that is found in abundance not only in Meghalaya but in other parts of the country. 

“Bamboo contains a binding agent called ‘Bamboo Kun’, which is found within its fibres. Its sole purpose is to fight off any bacteria or fungus that tries to grow on it, inevitably making bamboo the most hygienic material to use,” explains the Facebook page of Shillong Bamboo. 

The list of products consists of toothbrushes and toothbrush holder, drinking straws, iboo speakers, office organisers, soap case, lampshades, bamboo chandeliers, natural straw brush cleaner, cups and several other items which can easily replace cheap and harmful plastic products used in our daily life.

In the beginning, Shillong Bamboo focused on building and designing structures with bamboo “but in 2017, we started to move forward by making small products like straws”, says Dewkhaid.

 “Our vision is to live life without plastic, reducing the use of plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic toothbrush etc,” he adds. 1/3The small warehouse behind his residence at Mawlai Mawdatbaki is a revelation for a green crusader. The varied products arranged haphazardly on the table are Dewkhaid’s weapons in the battle against plastic.

Dewkhaid has his workshop at Mawsaitkhnam near Umroi airport. A crude bamboo gate opens to the small setup. More than four artisans make the bamboo products at the workshop and 4-10 helpers work once a week depending on the workload. 

There are two machines for cutting the bamboos, which are brought from Ri Bhoi, and sterilising them to make more user-friendly. Synshar Dewkhaid, an artist who lives in the village, says he has been working with Shillong Bamboo since its inception. “It is a small set-up but we will gradually develop the place. One drawback is erratic power supply because of which the machines cannot run all the time. So we manage our work time accordingly,” he says. 

With meagre investment, Dewkhaid uses social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to advertise his products. “We are receiving good response from around the globe, especially from Europe. Bamboo straws and toothbrushes are getting popular across India too,” he informs. Speakers and lampshades are also among the most sought after bamboo products. 

Shillong Bamboo has buyers from Maharashtra, Mumbai, New Delhi, Rajasthan, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Uttar Pradesh and as far as the UK. The sales figure of Rs 1-2 lakh is encouraging, if not impressive. 

On the competitive market, Dewkhaid says the items are making a mark in the global market and a major reason is the products are eco-friendly. Besides, the products are pocket-friendly with toothbrushes priced at Rs 60 each and speaker at Rs 260. “For instance, the speaker works perfectly as it requires no electricity or battery. It is just bamboo crafted in good design and the sound is louder than the normal speaker of your phone as you can hear the original sound that comes from this beautiful piece of bamboo wood,” he adds. 

Now, Shillong Bamboo is developing bamboo kitchen utilities and focusing more on bamboo home furnishings, such as lightings. Despite this novel effort and recognition outside the state, Dewkhaid and his team are yet to receive government help. “We are looking for an opportunity from the government when it comes to infrastructure 2/3such as building a warehouse for stocking finished products, proper treatment plant, workshed and procuring machines required for making bamboo furniture,” says the owner. Shillong Bamboo has a vision “that sees us living in a world with no plastic”. “We want to make the use of bamboo products a global phenomenon and so popular that they end up replacing plastic products entirely,” says the team on its Facebook page. 

(With inputs from Marbakynti Sati)