Rishika Reddy: I gravitated towards sustainability, packaging seemed like a natural fit

“Founding The Mend in the middle of the pandemic has made us resilient and has laid a strong foundation for our business model. It was not possible for us to be in the same place, so we worked with what we had and have successfully built this business over endless zoom meetings in different time zones,” says Rishika Reddy, founder, The Mend Packaging.

27 Jul 2023 | By Disha Chakraborty

Each client regardless of size and industry receives the same custom service and attention to detail from The Mend team

Disha Chakraborty (DC) : Have you always wanted a career in packaging? 
Rishika Reddy (RR):
Not at all! My family is in the printing and packaging business, but I never thought of it as a  career option. I worked in Bangalore at an EV startup before founding The Mend. While exploring industries in which sustainability is not a prime factor of consideration. I gravitated towards packaging and it felt natural to focus on this underserved area.  

DC : What  are some of the key trends you are discerning? 
RR :
Our clients come from various backgrounds, locations, and industries. Therefore, we see a lot  of trends across the board. Clients that are in the F&B space are looking for flexible and  biodegradable options for their primary packaging, in the apparel space a lot of clients are  looking for returnable/reusable packaging, in the eCommerce space clients are looking for compostable options. So the focus for different industries is based on their goalpost  of sustainability and their business needs.

DC : How is Mend progressing in the direction of sustainability? 
RR:
We are working on developing sustainable products, solutions, and services on multiple  fronts for our clients. Anytime we face a need from our clients we work on how we can solve  the same for them- whether it be on an immediate basis or something we hold on to develop  later. Our robust vendor network and partnerships are also particularly helpful, as we tap  into them to develop new products for us. Right now, the focus is on developing alternatives  to rigid plastics, hence our offerings on using ayurvedic by-products and agro waste as a  replacement to traditional polymers. 

DC : What's one challenge you occasionally or regularly face in your job?
RR:
To bring processes and systems into an unorganised industry is basically what we are doing  on a day to day basis. 

DC: Is there some way you can guide  others to follow a better process? 
RR:
We follow multiple protocols when it comes to sourcing materials, pricing, sampling, and quality checks and assurances to ensure there are minimal problems  or issues when completing an order. I think laying out process flows as a team and  constantly iterating it and taking feedback is critical in ensuring the success of the same.  

DC: Resorting more towards responsive supply chains, with flexibility to expand and contract capacities, to meet demand within a given time frame.
RR:
Working with a company like ours helps companies avoid the hassle of having to figure out their supply chains when it comes to packaging. If we are informed of their forecasted sales on a  regular basis, The Mend can set up their orders keeping in mind that demand fluctuates  seasonally. 

DC: How can this happen for the  packaging eco-system, especially with the eCommerce boom? 
RR:
We have a pan-India vendor network that we leverage in order to take  advantage of size, economies of scale, lower carbon footprint, and lower costs of transport. 

DC: Everyone says: Increase local buying, subject to natural and geographical and technological  constraints in such sourcing. What are three tips you have in this regard? 
RR:
Absolutely agree with regards to domestic clients in India- buying locally ensures that you are receiving the most competitive pricing, and also lowering your overall carbon footprint in terms of transport. We ensure we work with vendors closest to our clients in order to fulfill these requirements. We work with the best teams to mitigate any effects of quality that  might occur place to place, and our technological processes remain the same regardless of  the location.  In terms of our clients abroad, because of costs and ease of doing business, it may not make  sense for them to increase local buying. 

DC : How is India performing with personnel in Supply Chain Logistics?
RR:
Supply chain logistic processes are repetitive, there isn’t a significant level of skill required at a day to day level. The current structure at most packaging organisations  is a person or two that does the development process, and who is highly skilled in their field,  and multiple people that do the manual part of the job. 

DC: Are we under-staffed and  under-trained? 
RR:
There is an issue of under-training as there is a keyman problem associated with manufacturing in the packaging space. Also given that we are a laissez-faire type of economy, there aren’t high levels of retention as well  which leads to a chicken and egg problem- the effort and time spent training someone  may not pan out for long term benefit. 

DC : Are there recycling systems in India which deploy the supply chain system effectively? 
RR:
There are multiple organisations in India such as Recykl, Plastics for Change, and more that  are effectively mobilising the collection and recycling part of waste management. However,  more work needs to be done to actually redesign the product itself to ensure there is minimal  waste and that recycling can be done in an easier manner.
 
DC: Flexible packaging has long been vilified, as it is harder to collect and recycle  compared to even rigid plastics. How can we resolve this? 
RR:
The solution is to make flexible plastic disappear quicker- this means finding  more solutions that are easily compostable or water soluble. This can only be done by  changing the design of the intended product for packaging, then the packaging  requirements can be easily changed. For example, reducing the shelf life of food packaging can then reduce the amount of layers of packaging required, thereby opening up to more  alternatives. 

Latest Poll

Which is the sustainable packaging product among MSMEs that is most popular?

Results

Which is the sustainable packaging product among MSMEs that is most popular?

Bagasse and biodegradable boxes

 

33.33%

Corrugated boxes

 

33.33%

Paper bags

 

33.33%

Recyclable plastic (bubble wraps, bio-plastic)

 

0%

Total Votes : 3

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