Rituricha Jain and her innovation of sustainable paper

Rituricha Jain, founder and owner, Paperdom, and winner, Rising Star of the Year, shares her journey of being a female entrepreneur in the manufacturing sector

15 May 2024 | By PrintWeek Team

Rituricha Jain, Paperdom

Today, Paperdom is the largest manufacturer of banana fibre papers and products in the country. The journey began in 2012. What were the highs, lows, and roadblocks? 
The journey so far has been incredibly captivating. The initial hurdle, I must say, was significant — being a female entrepreneur in the manufacturing sector was unheard of. Every step brought with it numerous challenges and uncertainties. The workforce was unsure of how to respond to a woman in leadership, because it was unfamiliar territory for them. 

However, with unwavering support from everyone, everything fell into place. Amidst the highs, there have been many memorable moments - from the exhilaration of our first day of production to the ongoing development of our distinctive stationery products. Collaborating with prestigious brands and creating custom specialty papers have been particularly rewarding experiences. 

Every small victory continues to serve as a source of motivation for me, especially in the process of crafting new papers and designing unique products.

In 2012, you set up Paperdom. What methods did you use? 
From the beginning, it was clear to me that I didn't want to run just another factory meeting market demand. My goal was to innovate and to pioneer creations that stood apart. I tailored all the equipment to support this vision, assembled a capable team, and embraced experimentation at every turn. My aim wasn't just to manufacture handmade paper — I envisioned establishing a brand known for specialty papers and products. 

From day one, I established a small prototyping lab to fuel our ongoing innovation. I prioritised continuous learning, starting with a full diploma course in paper-making. Even today, you'll find me on the workshop floor, hands-on with every new creation.

Paperdom believes in being 0% wood, 100% paper. What is the science behind this?
Paperdom was established with a clear goal — to create a top-notch, sustainable brand without any compromises. Based in Surat, Gujarat, we were fortunate to have access to three key raw materials — cotton waste from textile factories, banana fiber from local farmers in South Gujarat, and bagasse from sugarcane factories — all within a 200 km radius. These are instrumental to our production.

The science behind our paper production is straightforward. All of these materials are rich in cellulose content, making them ideal to break down into pulp and forming into paper. Each raw material undergoes different processes and serves various applications. 

We utilise indigenous machinery and traditional artisanal methods to craft our papers, completely avoiding the use of wood, bleach, acids, or other harmful chemicals typically found in conventional paper production. 

Our approach is a modernised version of the traditional art of paper-making, dating back centuries. The added benefit is significant — for every tonne of paper we produce, we save an average of 17 trees from being cut down.

What is your style of leadership at Paperdom? Do you prefer to be hands-on or to delegate?
I'd say it's a blend of both. I'm deeply involved in the development of new papers, materials, and products. Once the formulas and processes are established, I train the team for execution, which I then delegate to them. Another area where I'm quite hands-on is ensuring the quality of our products. As a brand, and personally, I prioritize maintaining excellent quality, especially considering we work with natural materials and manual processes. Consistency and high quality are paramount to us.

How much merit is there in the thought that the Gen-Z might decide to avoid buying branded products and prefer products that companies like Paperdom produce? 
I believe this isn't just a notion but a reality already. The emergence and expansion of numerous direct-to-consumer brands across various sectors in India and globally stand as proof. Nowadays, consumers prioritise aesthetics, quality, and authenticity over brand names. The world is increasingly focused on sustainability. 

As a brand, if we uphold our promise and deliver completely sustainable and biodegradable products that match branded ones in quality, there's no reason why Gen Z or any age group wouldn't prefer Paperdom. We have ample customer testimonials supporting this. They often compare us to international brands and continue to choose us regularly for the reasons mentioned above.

Today, you are a brand that makes tree-free, sustainable, premium stationery. From productivity trackers to journals, notebooks to gift hampers, there’s something here for everyone. What's been the response? 
The response has been absolutely remarkable. When we launched our line of stationery and products in 2021, I was both excited and skeptical, as it was something entirely new. However, the overwhelming love and appreciation we received from customers upon introducing the products bolstered my confidence in the path we had chosen. Today, we cater to not only online and retail customers but also global corporations, prominent brands, and even large traditional businesses for their gifting and CSR needs. 

We also help them transition to sustainable products in their daily operations, significantly reducing their carbon footprint. My current focus is creating circular economy models, and we are in conversation to finalise partnerships with a couple of major players this year. I'm particularly enthusiastic about this endeavor due to the positive environmental impact it could bring about.

What do you see as the next big thing for Paperdom? Can you scale this up?
Our next major step is to expand globally. While we are already exporting to multiple countries, I see enormous potential in the Western markets. Currently, we are working towards launching in the US markets by the end of this year. Our business model is highly scalable. We operate through D2C, Marketplace, and B2B channels, and we intend to maintain this mixed approach instead of just focussing on one. 

With complete control over manufacturing, our in-house capacity already allows us to produce 30-40,000 units per month, which can be increased to 100,000 units with the existing infrastructure. In terms of the market, stationery represents a multi-billion-dollar industry, and the demand for sustainable stationery is rapidly increasing both in India and globally.

How will you celebrate winning the “Rising Star of the Year” category at the WTW Awards?
This award truly reflects the dedication and effort my team has shown at every stage of our journey. There's no better way to acknowledge their hard work than by treating them to a celebration. As for me, I'll simply enjoy my favourite ice cream!