Your Sustainability Story: Amouve Bedding with Ami Sata
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|Tell us about your company|
|Amouve is the first-of-its-kind, direct to consumer, certified organic bedding brand in India.
Amouve crafts organic bedding from the finest, long-staple organic cotton grown in South Indian cotton farms. Amouve seeks to provide the discerning consumer with soft, natural sleep, the farmer with a debt-free livelihood and the environment; sustainable processes.
Conventional cotton bedding is full of chemicals, from pesticide-laden cotton to formaldehyde finishes. When you spend a third of your life in bed, that is a lot to be directly in touch with chemicals. Which is why Amouve sought out to create the best , natural, GOTS certified organic bedding that is made from toxin-free, unbleached cotton and uses only safe-eco-friendly dyes.
Amouve’s range is a mix of Scandinavia-inspired design and handcrafted prints that combine Indian printing methods with contemporary designs.
|Tell us about your background|
|The Aha moment: A trip to Scandinavia introduced me to the most sumptuous bedding I had slept on. A volley of questions, research and days later, I managed to trace its manufacturing to India.
This coupled with my experience of looking for a pair of quality sheets led me to start Amouve. Most brands I found were plastic packed – they were more about fashion than sleep. ‘’You see mattresses and pillows being marketed as cervical and great for the spine (great for health basically), why not sheets?’’ Having worked in the bedding industry before (non-organic), I realised that the emphasis on the fabric that touches your skin was minimal.
There is a huge gap between what exists and what is marketed. A handful of us realise what we sleep on is a multitude of chemicals, from pesticide-laden cotton to formaldehyde finishes. Anti-wrinkle and anti-stain sheets may be easy for ‘maintenance’, but not your health. We spend a 1/3rd of our lives in bed. That is a lot to be directly in touch with toxins. This prompted me to opt for organic cotton sheets, certified by GOTS.
A third factor that propelled my desire further was the state of the Indian cotton farmer. Since 1995, nearly 3 lakh cotton farmers have committed suicide. So why exactly does the Indian cotton farmer commit suicide?
Cotton is the dirtiest crop in the world and a serious economic and environmental issue.
The average Indian cotton farmer enters into debt due to purchase of GM seeds and expensive pesticides from multinationals. These seeds are patented and hence a farmer is forbidden to save or replant them the next year. Meanwhile cotton accounts for nearly 24% of the world’s insecticide market. Pesticides and Insecticides not only kill cotton pests but even the beneficial insects. Because the natural enemy has been eradicated, the target insects which at one point were a minor nuisance, become more pronounced and even greater amount of pesticides need to be sprayed to keep them in check. This vicious cycle leads to what is known as the ‘pesticide treadmill’. This in turn leads to buying more pesticides and debt.
Organic cotton on the other hand is not just great for one’s skin and health but also the planet, farmers and the biodiversity.
|Tell us about your future|
|There is a clear shift towards healthy, informed living. I see this picking up at a bigger scale. At Amouve, we hope to introduce more line extensions to cover the entire gamut of organic bedding.
Going forward, I would also like us to come up with an organic laundry detergent made completely from natural substances. It will not only complement our core product line is but even strengthen the organic positioning.
As for our bit towards farmers and villages, I hope to cater to one of the primary areas of concern – building a tubewell in a village in South India, providing bicycles to girls to go to school and commute, building toilets in schools and providing farmers with the necessary resources.
|What strategies were most helpful for you as you grew your green business?|
|Since organic bedding as a concept is unheard of in India, people were initially resistant to buying considering they did not understand how the sheets would feel different. To tackle this, we introduced swatches that consumers could order so as to get an idea about the touch and feel aspect of it. It worked wonders.
Secondly since most bedding items were premium priced, we introduced cushions as lower ticket items so potential customers could purchase and see for themselves. This led to building up of trust.
Thirdly, it was important to reach the eco-conscious customer. For this we participated in organic markets and were actually the first ones in the non-food category. People came to us amused. Cumulative participation for weeks together helped build confidence.
Every green entrepreneur should focus on the why and then come to the ‘green’ aspect. Consumers dont always buy something because it is green. However, if they see value in a product and know that it is green too, they will most definitely pay a premium.
In our case, we harped on the ‘soft’ aspect of the bed sheets and brought in ‘organic’ from the door behind. This helped us tackle customers who wouldn’t otherwise have bought the organic sleep funda.
|What are your favorite tools for success?|
I highly recommend Neil Patel – the guy’s free advice is worth more than anyone’s paid. I attended his free webinars and gained a lot of useful tips. I also recommend this SEO backlink tool called Linkody which is a great way to analyze your links and your competitors’ links. After analyzing the backlinks adopted by others, it became easier to approach sites.
Free green directories are also helpful in listing businesses, though most will have no-follow links.
Ecommerce needs to take help from offline marketing. It is important that the customer sees the product when you’re starting out. We adopted marketing at organic markets, golf courses and clubs, so people could see and know about the product. Trust me, you cant undervalue what offline brings to online.
The last and most important tool for success: Persistence. There’s no replacing hard work and grit.
|What do you wish you had been told before starting your business?|
|1. Know what entails a task before outsourcing:
I outsourced my digital marketing to an agency and realized they were simply creating a bunch of social media posts. SEO was an ocean that I knew nothing about and only once was I cheated, I actually took the reins to delve into it. It was tough and I’m still learning but the insights I’ve gained are far and wide.
2. Adapt, adapt, adapt:
When we started Amouve, we didn’t really know exactly how people would react to the product. To our surprise, men bought prints and women solids. Hence, we introduced more extensions for both.
3. There will be more roadblocks than you imagined.
From getting a cold ‘NO’ from 60 odd manufacturers to products that are incorrectly sized, there will always be trouble in unforeseen areas. However, remember you’re stronger than you think. It is times like these that test your mettle and when you come out, you shine brighter.
4. Go where the market is rather than waiting for it to come to you.
Find your niche customer in places that you think didn’t exist. Golf clubs. Annual membership clubs. Other complementary organic stores. Lifestyle exhibitions. Premium car dealership stores. Jewellery stores. Strategize for a barter alliance or go for paid media.
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