Poonam Kasturi’s episode became a hit with viewers when she schooled every one of the sharks with a witty ‘reality check’.
Poonam Kasturi came to Shark Tank India season two with a simple, elegant solution to wet waste management in households. Her intriguing method of turning waste into ‘treasure’ through her simple composting invention definitely caught the eyes of the sharks and the viewers. Apart from her invention, one of the highlights of the episode was how she gave most of the sharks a much needed reality check with her sharp wit and charming demeanour.
After her successful pitch on Shark Tank India 2, OTTplay caught up with the entrepreneur about her business.
Excerpts from the interview…
On the show, you had said that you had got the idea for Daily Dump from the lessons you learnt during your tenure at the Srishti City School of Design, which you started. What kind of lessons did you take from your experience there? You did talk about environment protection, and climate action as well.
Yeah, I think there are movements all over the world . People are supporting local businesses, there are ground up movements with a lot of participation etc. They were ideas that informed the way I actually constructed Daily Dump. Because in the beginning, it was very, very clear that I had to create the demand. So I designed the design and took decisions to make sure that I could get people to actually understand that this is possible to do in an urban set up, and also to get them excited about doing it. Then I had to create a critical mass, so that it becomes a habit for the people to do. And then you know, the government also endorses it. So it was a long kind of strategy to get the production, and then break and then productize.
The thing is no one wanted to do it before, when we first started in 2006. So that was a challenge. So we had to create demand, show that this was possible, get people excited. So these were all things that were informed by my teachings.
You have been in the business for quite a long while, and you talked about how the business experienced the slowdown during the COVID period. But despite that, I believe that you still managed to break even. Could you talk about the challenges that COVID brought and how you managed to overcome them?
I think COVID put a lot of pressure on communities to focus on other things, rather than waste. They have to focus on health, there was the worry about the restrictions on movement etc. So the emphasis shifted. So things like sanitization, workers’ health, all kinds of things that were not directly related to waste management dropped in community adoption. And that is actually a big ticket item for us. That's(community waste management) is where about 30% of our revenue comes from. If you’re living in an apartment during COVID, your apartment group is not going to spend anything on waste management, they’re going to spend on sanitization, keeping the workers safe and keeping the community safe. So that was a big challenge.
How did you manage to overcome all these problems during the COVID period?
To overcome it was a tough, very difficult thing. You have to get up everyday and say that you’re not going to let the challenge faze you. You have to persevere.
One of the highlights of the episode was how you schooled the sharks and gave each of them a reality check. So was that something that you had already thought about while going and or was it spontaneous on your part?
No, no, it was not planned at all. I was thinking that I would just be myself so I was not really out to get into giving anyone a reality check or anything. I was just sharing what I felt about composting. They were very sweet about it also. All the sharks were good sports about it. I think it was just a very normal fun conversation we had..
After your pitch, all the sharks had something to say about the business. Anupam, Vineeta and Peyush spoke of how the price points were high and needed to be scaled up.
I have a response to this, although at the time I did not say anything. There are some things that people do not realise about composting. Poor people, people who have to be careful about their money, do not waste food. And if they dont waste food they have no use for composting. Whereas the more disposable income you have, the more upwardly socially mobile you are, the more you waste; and therefore those are the people who need composters.
Now, for instance, I do not think you’re your grandmother would pay Rs 50,000 for a washing machine. But tomorrow, you will pay 50,000 rupees for the washing machine. Right. So, that's why I did not argue with the sharks at that time. But I feel that unless we have money to put down for composting we cannot make it as a practice that we all need to value. If we buy the best TV, buy the best fridge, buy the best washing machine, we should also be able to get a good composter as well.So that was my reasoning for pricing.
And the other thing about Peyush’s feedback, about his suggestion of making the cost of the product(composter) smaller and the cost of the accessories being more expensive. Now, if I was a customer, I wouldn't like that. So I thought, I would prefer not to do that to a customer. I try and run my company the way I like it as a customer.
You’re co-founder Arjun, had spoken about he's working on setting up a sales team. Has any progress been made on that end?
Arjun has done a tremendous job. We shot for the show in October. But after that Arjun has taken over the reins, developed a team and keep morale and done just such a fabulous job. Our turnover has stabilised, we're growing. So whatever Arjun said he’ll do, he’s started it.
Namita Thapar has come on board as an investor in your company. Could you talk a bit about her involvement in the company as well?
Namita is there, we are going to have a formal launch with her in another one month.
Have any other investors come on board as well during this time?
What are the expansion plans you have in mind for Daily Dump?
That's what we are doing now,with the financial year closing in March, our team had a brainstorming session about whatever we ought to do. Some of the things which we think matter include the climate change aspect and how we are going to grow from there. We have good ideas, we want to be able to do those. It's a great space to be in because well, you have mentors and you have Namita on board, introducing a lot of good energy. And I think it's going to be a good ride.