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A rare breed of man on a mission to replace polythene with bags made from old denims

Farshan Zarook is a one-of-a-kind entrepreneur who is inviting people to copy his business. You read that right.

He is inviting people to not only copy his business but also to try and deliver a product that is just like his, or better, for a competitive price. bag (2)

Farshan is a firm believer of the fact that imitation in fact is the sincerest form of flattery. And he believes if more bag manufacturers imitate him and move from plastic bags to producing denim bags, or fabric bags in a more broader sense, he can pat himself on the back because that is precisely what he wants to do – to spearhead a wave of socially and environmentally conscious entrepreneurs who recycle and reuse.

Farshan is a bag manufacturer by profession who has been trying to push his eco-friendly agenda since 2011 by way of manufacturing cloth bags and encouraging people to use them, instead of rexine and bags made of other non-biodegradable materials.
The Nation spoke to this inspiring entrepreneur about his new venture, his philosophy, his philanthropic efforts and way forward.

Q: Describe to us your business?

What I do is I make bags – backpacks and handbags – out of old denim jeans. I ask the customer to provide me with two or more jeans and then make them a bag using those bags for a price of 500 rupees. Why I say three trousers is because I am going to be using one pair of jeans to make one small bag that I will be giving away free at the end of thbag (1)e year as a CSR project. I am planning to give away about 2000 bags to children in Anuradhapura by the end of this year. I think what’s special about this venture is that it is a win-win for all parties concerned – you get a bag, for an affordable price, we discourage you from using plastic which is a win for the environment and you’re contributing to our CSR project; to give a bag to a student from a poor school who can’t perhaps afford one. I am very excited about this.

Q: What inspired you to start this venture?
I have been very passionate about conservation. I work with a charity, or an organization rather, called ‘Haritha Agosthuwa’ (Green August) through which we do a lot of replanting all over the country. We will be planting 1000 plants on the 7th of May in Kataragama too.
The denim project, which is my brainchild, was something that I have been wanting to do for a long time. But the Meetotamulla tragedy made me sort of realize that we should bag (4)start acting immediately. As an individual, I think I have a responsibility towards the earth and this is my way of doing my bit to protect it. I am more than happy if people start using denim bags. I’d be happier if people copy this bag, this venture, and start coming up with creative products made out of recycled materials. If I see these hanging somewhere someday, out there, outside a shop, I’ll be a happy man.

Q: How does the process work? Say, I want to place an order what steps do I have to follow?

Simple. You have to get three denims ready and give me a ring. I’ll come to wherever you are (if you’re within Colombo, Kalutara or Gampaha for the time being) and collect the denims from you. Usually it takes three to four days to make a bag. I will come back with the bag and you can pay me on delivery.

Q: How has the response been so far?

Extremely positive. It is amazing how people are keen to help me out on this venture. Some are willing to give me old jeans without even expecting a bag back. Even the readers can contribute. If you are in Colombo and you can collect me some denims, I can come and collect them from you. We encourage typically to give us three or more at a time. People have contacted me and told me they are willing to collect and give me 400-500 denims; provided I put them to good use. And by good use, they mean make bags and give them to poor children at the end of the year, which I will.
Farshan adds that it would be ideal if the denims can be properly washed and dried before they are handed over for recycling. He says that the bags are customizable.
Farshan is reachable on 0789776602 and via Facebook.