22-year-old Tanjit Pathak enjoys the challenge of running three machines simultaneously in the Tamul Plates factory, where he and five others race against time, turning palm leaves into disposable dinnerware.
During the summer of 2014, the Upaya staff and Tamul Plates management began work on this Social Performance report to document the economic and social background of the company’s beneficiaries. This report provides a snapshot of social metrics for 95 of Tamul Plates’ beneficiaries, serving as the baseline for reporting their progress out of poverty over time.
Surveyors interviewed Tamul Plates beneficiaries across ten districts of Northeast India. For the purposes of this report, the respondents were broken into two geographic groups - the Lower Assam Group and the Upper Assam Group. Beneficiaries were evaluated across key social and economic metrics, including income, education, assets, and expenditure. Among the highlights:
- Households in the Lower Assam Group have a higher likelihood of falling below the $1.25-a-day poverty line than those in the Upper Assam Group. In particular, leaf plate producers (32 percent in the Lower Assam Group, and 36 percent in the Upper Assam Group) and raw material collectors (28 percent in both respondent groups) are the most likely to fall below the poverty line among Tamul Plates beneficiaries.
- Leaf plate producers are highly dependent on Tamul Plates, with income from Tamul Plates-related activities constituting the primary source of income for a vast majority of households across the Lower and Upper Assam Groups.
- Households spend roughly 50 percent of their total monthly expenses on food alone. Expenditure on school for children and miscellaneous (unplanned) expenses form the next two biggest categories. Savings constitute a very small component of total expense for households at 6–7 percent.
A midline (check-in) survey will be conducted after 12 months for the same group of beneficiaries to measure the changes in income levels and quality-of-life indicators. Click here to download the full report.
The deal is notable as Tamul Plates is the only established producer of disposable tableware in the Northeast - a region with more than 100,000 hectares of arecanut under plantation and one of the poorest areas of the country.
“This investment is a recognition that Tamul Plates is well positioned to meet the growing demand for high quality, environmentally responsible, and ethically produced products,” said Tamul Plates CEO Arindam Dasgupta. “Working in the Northeast, the company benefits from a unique combination of access to the highest quality raw materials and a producer base that takes great pride in its craftsmanship,” said Dasgupta.
Tamul Plates produces and markets high-quality, all-natural disposable plates and bowls made from arecanut (palm) tree leaves and sells them under the “Tambul Leaf Plates” brand. The company’s clientele includes a mix of restaurants, fast food establishments, event managers, and direct-to-consumer retailers.
This investment follows a recent agreement between Tamul Plates and the Government of Assam to supply the equipment for and train an extended network of affiliate rural producers. The investment by Artha and Upaya will allow the Barpeta-based company to make use of that expanded affiliate producer network by diversifying its product line, expanding its domestic sales and distribution networks, and opening export markets for its products.
“It has been a highlight of the Artha Venture Challenge to uncover a pioneering and innovative enterprise in Tamul Plates,” said Artha Initiative’s Director Audrey Selian. “We are particularly happy to be co-investing with Upaya, and look forward to continued efforts in collaboration sector-wide through our AVC and ArthaPlatform.com programming,” said Selian. Artha Initiative is associated with Switzerland-based Rianta Capital Zurich.
Disposable arecanut dinnerware is hygienic, chemical-free, compostable, microwave safe - and in high demand among urban consumers around the world. The production and sale of natural arecanut dinnerware not only reduces the deforestation and pollution associated with the production of traditional disposable dishes, but also provides a viable livelihood to disadvantaged communities.
“Upaya has been very impressed by the work of Arindam and his team over the past year, and believe that the company’s growth plans will benefit both customers and producers alike,” said Upaya’s Director, Business Development Sreejith Nedumpully. “We are proud to join the Artha Initiative in backing this promising enterprise, and are exciting about the company’s potential,” said Nedumpully. Upaya was Tamul Plates’s first investor.
This co-investment in Tamul Plates is the first deal completed under the formalized collaboration framework between Artha and Upaya that was announced in November 2014. Per that agreement, the two organizations are working together to deploy seed capital to help SGBs scale and create employment for the poor, share best practices around sound financial management, and disseminate tools and training for the benefit of India's wider ecosystem.
Upaya was honored to have longtime supporter Suzanne Skees join our most recent visit to our partners in Assam and Uttar Pradesh.
You can read about her trip and what we all learned on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog.
“Winning this award is a great recognition of all the hard work Arindam and his team have put into growing Tamul Plates and the Tambul Plates brand,” said Upaya’s Director, Business Development Sreejith Nedumpully. “Not only is Tamul Plates building new skills in rural communities across the North East, but the company is ensuring that those who do gain new skills have a direct opportunity to earn a steady livelihood from them,” said Nedumpully.
Tamul Plates was selected for Upaya's LiftUP Project initiative in December 2013, a choice that has resulted in equity funding and ongoing business development advisory support for the Barpeta, Assam-based company.
With this win Tamul Plates receives a cash gift from the Muthoot Pappachan Foundation. Additionally, Tamul Plates will gain access to the capacity building Empretec program (an initiative of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), along with admission to the iDiya program at Indian School of Business (ISB) Hyderabad and to the upcoming Diffusion workshop at ISB. Each of these forums will provide increased visibility for the company, its palm leaf plates and bowls, and its innovative technology for producing the highest quality disposable dinnerware products.
Tamul Plates CEO Arindam Dasgupta (left) receives the first place prize at the Power to Empower 2013 Challenge
Assam-based natural dinnerware producer Tamul Plates Marketing Pvt. Ltd. is pleased to announce that it has received a seed investment from Upaya Social Ventures through Upaya’s LiftUP Project. Based in the Barpeta District of Assam, Tamul Plates produces and markets high-quality, all-natural disposable plates and bowls made from arecanut (palm) tree leaves under the “Tambul Leaf Plates” brand.
Disposable arecanut dinnerware is hygienic, chemical-free, compostable, microwave safe, and in high demand among urban consumers around the world.
The production and sale of natural arecanut dinnerware not only reduces the deforestation and pollution associated with the production of traditional disposable dishes, but also provides a viable livelihood to disadvantaged communities.
“Unemployment is the root cause of so many problems plaguing the Northeast today, and Tamul Plates was launched to create new opportunities for rural youth to earn a dependable income,” said Tamul Plates CEO Arindam Dasgupta. “We feel that this partnership with Upaya affords us the resources needed to expand our operations and be a positive economic force in these communities,” said Dasgupta.
Tamul Plates produces dinnerware through a network of affiliates across tribal regions of Northeast India. The company ensures that each affiliate has the skills and machinery needed to produce superior-quality dinnerware. These affiliates are located in communities otherwise struggling with stubbornly high rates of unemployment, especially as heavy annual monsoons and floods diminish the ability of farmers to earn a dependable income from conventional agriculture alone.
“There are more than 100,000 hectares of arecanut plantation in Northeast India - one of the poorest and most backward areas of the country - but there is virtually no one connecting these small farmers to the equipment and support needed to produce high-quality disposable arecanut leaf dinnerware,” said Upaya’s Director, Business Development Sreejith Nedumpully. “Upaya is very excited to be working with Arindam and his team as we believe they can provide those services and be a major employer in poor tribal communities across the Northeast,” said Nedumpully.