Sahar-Mansoor, Founder, Bare Necessities Zero Waste Solutions

What Inspired You To Start This Brand?

WOMEN INTERVIEWS

Founder, Sahar Mansoor, in her own words is an accidental entrepreneur, though I come from a family of serial entrepreneurs. Bare Necessities started in the pursuit of zero waste living and living a lifestyle congruent to my own values.I felt overwhelmed with India’s trash problem. I was confronted by it every day seeing piles of garbage on the streets. I spent time with local waste pickers and watched them sort through waste with their bare hands. I started to think of the environmental, health and social justice issues associated with our garbage problem. I wanted to stop being part of the problem. My solution was to live a lifestyle that best reflects the values I cared about.

I studied environmental policy at the University of Cambridge and I had worked at the World Health Organization, but I decided I needed to live a life fully congruent to my environmental and social justice values. I needed to walk the talk and I knew I had to start living a zero waste lifestyle.

I have been living a zero waste lifestyle for five years now. In that time, I have produced only half a kilogram of trash, all of which fits in a 500 ml jar. In my zero waste journey, I realized that it was impossible to find personal care and home care products that didn’t contain harmful chemicals and weren’t packaged in plastic.

In response to this problem, I wanted to create a company that mirrored the values of zero waste, ethical consumption and sustainability. I wanted to make it easy for other people looking to consume more mindfully and to encourage others to produce less waste.

Bare Necessities was born.

What is the name about?

Whenever someone hears Bare Necessities, they think about Jungle Book and the famous lyrics “The Simple Bare Necessities” and quite honestly, that resonates with us 100%! We absolutely love it because it speaks to the nature of how if we live mindfully and understand what we truly need, we can lead a simple, yet fun and fulfilling life (not just for us but for those around us in the form of other fellow humans, animals, plants and environment)

With that said, my inspiration to name our company Bare Necessities also stemmed from my time when I worked with SELCO, helping provide access to solar energy to rural communities using a decentralized model. During my time, I used to actually wake up well before my work hours, grab my bicycle and follow the waste pickers around (as I like to call them, waste warriors) because I was extremely curious. I knew we the environmental issues we faced from a very academic level, but this gave me first-person insight into what our waste warriors go through, from using their bare hands to sort through the garbage that has just been discarded on our streets, waterways and more.

In addition to this, we are living in this world where products are dropping every single minute, maybe even every single second around the world. And that’s what has been driving consumerism off the charts by creating demand for products we may not necessarily need or consider our “Simple Bare Necessities.” So it all then came together, Bare Necessities, a brand that will help us live a mindful lifestyle with all the actual necessities we use on the daily, from the time we wake up to the time we sleep, nothing more, nothing less!

What sets you apart from other brands in this space?

Ah now that’s quite the question considering the number of businesses that are now mushrooming providing products that are natural, zero waste, ethical and more. And this is a good problem to have because the problem we are tackling is a global issue and needs more businesses and people becoming increasingly aware – so it makes me happy!

What sets us apart is the fact that we had the opportunity to be the first-movers in this space and truly understand the problem, build an ecosystem and continuously strive to understand what is really needed. Our products are 100% natural, cruelty-free, with our personal care and homecare products being completely handcrafted, while we employ women from lower socio-economic backgrounds as part of our manufacturing team.

The answer to this question typically dives straight into product offerings. But for us, it’s about the team we are building, the opportunities we are creating, upskilling our women-run manufacturing team and education. Over the course of 5 years, we have run talks, workshops and now curated 3 online courses (Zero Waste Living 101, Building Blocks of Sustainability and Introduction to Circular Economy) to really further raise awareness on how we can all be part of the solution in our own capacity, at our workplaces, or as communities. Educating and raising awareness is what further raises “demand,” so to speak, of products because people are aware about the true cost of the products they are buying – the fact that it is bigger than just the price point, and instead, it is also about the who, how, what goes into a product.

Another aspect that differentiates us from other brands in this space is the fact that our brand does not intend to launch products that we do not consider a necessity. We will continue to launch products that are essential to our daily routines, so that we can strive to live mindful and simplistic lifestyles, putting less burden on our resources, people and more.

While we are a small business, we also donate a percentage of our revenues to Maruvan (a unique reforestation initiative) and Hasirudala (waste management initiative) to support in whatever way we can.

So when you really think about it, we are striving to not only provide products to help people switch, but we are also striving to further raise awareness and educate while helping the women we see around us who want to have an opportunity to learn, grow and earn! Our products, as of now, may not be as accessible as the mainstream products in the market, but that comes with a self-aware market, and that’s what we hope to help expedite!

What’s the road ahead?

The road ahead is to stick to our vision of launching products that will revolutionize how we consume products. To find unique and innovative ways to continue spearheading the movement towards other forms of sustainable packaging. There’s a lot in the pipeline that we are extremely excited about while continuing to grow our team, empowering local women as part of our manufacturing team and further ramping our educational efforts!With COVID and all the uncertainties that challenge growing businesses, families, personal lives, mental health and more, the road ahead can seem quite challenging and more like an uphill climb, but we’ll continue to innovate similar to how we got through the first and second lockdowns!

Tell us something unique about you which you have not already spoken about on any other public platform?

I was told that with all my learning disabilities(dyslexia), I wouldn’t be an academic success in the traditional sense of the word. They told me with my single mom, I would never be able to afford the education of my dreams at Cambridge. They also told me you cannot start your own business in India without your father’s money or VC money.

Not only did I complete my Mphil from University of Cambridge as a Rotary Global Grant scholar but also successfully founded Bare Necessities in 2016 when I was working in the solar energy sector. I am very proud to say, we are (almost) completely a women run enterprise with 85% of the team being women! I am excited to share, Bare Necessities is currently retailing in 50+ stores across the country, available on 15+ online platforms and serving over 80,000+ customers since the last four years.

I just want to share this because we all can do it if we simply put our mind to it, surround ourselves with those who support us and be persistent and value-oriented!

What are your views on the industry that you are in?

I’d like to answer this question using simple keywords: exciting, innovative, need of the hour, competitive yet collaborative, changemaking to the current system we are living in, circular!

What makes your founders and/or the rest of the team unique?

Our team is the backbone of any sort of success we have achieved. Any challenges we’ve overcome, it’s literally all because of the team we have built.

We are an extremely diverse team and a team that is insanely hard working. A team that believes we are trying our best even though we aren’t perfect, and a team that is striving to help move towards achieving our vision of making zero waste the norm. I think it can be quite challenging to build a team that is cohesive not only in terms of personality, but also in terms of aligning with the brand values, and that is something that I’m proud to say is our team!

From the lovely women in our manufacturing team, to our business development and marketing teams, to our operations teams, we are kind to one another, we interact with one another human to human and we don’t believe in traditional hierarchies which makes us that much more of a close-knit team.

Lastly, I appreciate our team even more because each team member, while many are also young and starting out their careers, are understanding the nature of a small growing social enterprise and are dabbling in a variety of roles – which is not only helping their personal and professional growth, but keeping them on their toes and excited! That’s honestly the culture I was striving to build, one that is equal, allows for cross-training and innovative!

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