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Haresh Mehta: The corrugation man

22 December 2017

Mehta found fame in making corrugation "chic”. In a conversation with Ramu Ramanathan he talks about his journey and his voracious appetite for all things corrugate

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To reach Haresh Mehta’s office, you zip past the shanty shops of Jari Mari and the Kurla scrap market. The storm water zigzags through sewer less slums; there is debris that clogs drainage channels and shops that sell products from the previous century. The local rickshaw driver says dengue is on the rise. In the midst of all this urban mayhem, you catch a glimpse of an eleven feet giraffe. Next to it, is a lion. Both made of corrugation. That’s when you know you have entered Corrugation Land.

giraffe

Haresh Mehta has a voracious appetite for corrugation. His office is fashioned out of cardboard. And so are the beds, benches, bookshelves, tables, chairs, children’s furniture, toys, coffee cups, lamps, photo frames. All durable, superbly designed and eco-friendly. What grabs my attention is, a rocking chair — a work of art. It took 50 hours of creation. And it is not for sale.
chair

The chhokra from Ghatkopar is an SIES college drop-out. Haresh Mehta joined the family business of box manufacturing, but he was distracted. His extended family gobbled up account books and Excel sheets in order to boost P&L in the cardboard box business. Mehta doodled on a desk and sketched on corrugated boards. In the early days, it was chop sticks and corners for tables. He would rip apart boxes, and play with the wavy fluted medium. That’s when he realised that he can “use this unique material and its inherent architecture, and transform it into an aesthetic art object.” That’s how he migrated to creating six bottle-pack corrugation carrier and 3-D bric-a-brac.

Corrugation boxes are in the news. More than two billion boxes are manufactured in India. The two largest consumers for corrugated boxes are the textile sector (22 per cent) and the processed food sector (20 per cent). With the government’s focus on packaging of fresh produce and processed food, one can expect to see a boost in this sector. But Haresh Mehta’s dreams are not commoditised. His planet is far removed from the humongous 5000-metric-tonne factories with automatic lines that produce RSC brown boxes with a five-ply or seven-ply.

A year ago, his company Jayna Packaging created a Loo Box. This recyclable dry toilet is ideal for elderly and senior citizens at home, as well as road travellers. Haresh Mehta says, “The Loo Box is lightweight, it is foldable, it has an anytime, anywhere usage. And the waste can be disposed in a clean and hygienic manner.” Ideally it should be a mascot for the Government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

He had a new vision in 2014. He called it: From cradles to coffins. Again, with corrugated boards. He says, “Corrugated is a material that is both versatile and flexible, and can be recycled over and over again. Plus it can be discarded.” A parent can discard a toy after three-four years, by which time the child has outgrown the toy.

A truly “disruptive idea” is green burials with corrugated coffins that are eco-costly and eco-green. But what problem is a corrugated coffin going to solve, I ask. He says, “With corrugated boards, the burial would cost just a fraction of the conventional send-off. Plus corrugated board is biodegradable — and within three years or so, the space is available. Graveyards in cities like Mumbai are running out of space, as you know.”

Like most of Haresh’s creation, it requires concept selling. In this case, it requires convincing the Church clerics and the municipality authorities.

Mehta has contacted undertakers and offered service for burial in the city. Based on the feedback, he offers different models of cardboard coffins, and overnight delivery. Lately, he has been grappling with the regulations that govern burial sites. The main concern is, coffins are “a matter of faith”. For instance, when should the graves be dug up? And how long is it deemed acceptable for the occupants to have been left to rest in peace?

Even as I exit, he shows me the model of a new World Record structure with corrugated. It is in trial-and-error phase. The idea may fructify in 2018. And will be erected using corrugated boxes. He says, “This project, if it happens, will demonstrate the versatility and sustainability of corrugated.” A pause. Then he adds, “If this happens, everyone will realise you can create anything and everything with corrugation. And it can replace metal, plastic, wood. Plus it is much more beautiful.”

office
Jayna Packaging office

Jayna launches Paper Shaper

Paper Shaper is an online portal recently started by Mumbai’s Jayna Packaging which delivers products ranging from children furniture, home furniture, office use products, home decor and much more.

Paper Shaper products are created out of recyclable corrugated board which are lightweight and can be assembled with ease. Haresh Mehta, the owner of Jayna Packaging, said, “These types of furniture are ideal for use in hostels where there is no need for permanent furniture. Also, the products are totally recyclable which makes it environment-friendly.”

Paper Shaper website operates similarly to that of any shopping website. You can choose the products from the website, do the payment and it will be delivered to your doorsteps.

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