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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Rising Ventures: Harnessing the Ingenuity of the BoP

By Derek Newberry

NaturaEvery entrepreneur has a story. Anyone with the wherewithal and acumen to start a business had to have something click at some point - a moment when they saw an unrecognized market opportunity and the perfect product or service to fill that gap. For Tommy Matthew, this moment came from watching villagers in India tie their cows up with rope made from coir.

Tommy went on to found Natura Fibretech in his hometown of Bangalore - a company essentially based around taking a material commonplace to India's BoP and popularizing it in the national construction and housing sectors. Indians have for generations used coir (a fiber made from coconuts) in practical items such as doormats, rope and even mattresses. Coir is a sturdy, inexpensive and much more sustainable alternative to other conventional materials, and it led Tommy to wonder why large manufacturers in India had not taken advantage of one of the country's abundant resources.Natura became the first company to manufacture coirply, a wood made from this fiber that has a high quality comparable to teak, but the potential of which has not been fully realized in India's growing construction industry.

Natura is expanding at a rapid annual rate of 40 percent and is now a regular supplier to a number of government projects. As the company becomes a part of private sector supply chains as well, the benefits to many rural Indian families and the environment will be substantial. I will let you read the full profile to find out the details; it's another great example of how a single idea can produce huge results.
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