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Sustainable Practices: A Less-Explored Opportunity To Build the Future Of India Consumers in India are increasingly taking note of brands and products that are earth-friendly

By Dhimant Parekh

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Plastic waste

We are already past the "Environment Day', an annual observation that creates a lot of buzz around sustainability. But the good news is that the buzz does not vanish after that one day. Consumers in India are increasingly taking note of brands and products that are earth-friendly, i.e. those that do not add to the deposits that end up in a landfill or disrupt marine life.

The other big opportunity that's right around the corner is in the sector of wellness. So this combination of wellness and eco-friendliness is where the next retail growth is poised to happen.

Are most retail brands missing an opportunity?

Here's the thing: 67 per cent of digitally active consumers from India identify themselves as environmentally conscious or eco-friendly with purchases leaning towards natural, organic and recyclable products (source: Euromonitor International's lifestyles survey 2019).

What's even more interesting is that the number of such customers in India is much higher than even their global counterparts, mainly due to the large number of young consumers—the millennials (born between 1980-1994) and Generation Z (born after 1995). What is remarkably different in these generations from their predecessors is their willingness to delve deeper into a message and hold brands accountable. These generations are also "hypercognitive' and adept in collecting and cross-referencing multiple sources of information and then integrating the information with their virtual and offline experiences. Their consumption is unlimited but veers to what is unique and ethical.

Want to test this out? Just get on to Instagram and start browsing through the stories section. Before you know it, you'll be seeing a barrage of sustainable products being advertised to you.

As per the latest Census, 62.5 per cent of Indian population are in the age bracket of 15 to 59 years, and around 70 per cent of the population lives in urban areas. A recent survey by a private industry house revealed that 70 per cent of urban India was aware of environmental issues around them. And almost 90 per cent of this aware group felt that the lack of affordable, eco-friendly alternatives is preventing them being more environmentally considerate in their daily lives.

This highlights a huge unmet need in a population that is ready to embrace sustainable products. Therefore, consumer-facing brands will be required to improve the eco-friendliness of their products in addition to satisfying standard customers' needs. Yes, cost does remain a barrier for eco-friendly products, but it's a barrier that can be surmounted. With scale, with innovation and with super-efficient supply-chain processes. The key to make all this happen will be technology and the ability of new-age brands to be able to leverage the internet to directly talk to their consumers.

Save the planet and ride the growth bandwagon

Entrepreneurs are inherently optimistic and that's a good thing for the economy and the environment. Sustainability is a multidimensional world and it requires an approach that considers the complete life-cycle of the products—from sourcing to delivery. Social and environmental sustainability is a long-term investment that ensures the future of the people—and in the long run, for generations to come. This is an opportunity that India and its entrepreneurs can ill-afford to ignore.

Dhimant Parekh

Founder & CEO, The Better Home

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