Upaya Social Ventures (http://www.upayasv.org) has announced that it has begun work with Guwahati, Assam-based Elrhino (http://elrhinopaper.com) – handcrafted luxury paper, stationery products, and packaging materials made from recycled rhinoceros and elephant dung and other natural waste. The company will receive seed capital and ongoing business development support from Upaya through the latter’s LiftUP Project framework.
Elrhino manages the entire dung paper production chain including collection, preparation, processing, and sale of finished dung paper goods. The company is led by Nisha Bora, a young Assam native who is building on the work begun by her father over three years ago to create new livelihoods and increase the value of rhinoceros and elephants to local villagers. In the two years since its creation, Elrhino has made its mark in the Indian market as well as in France, and has created significant brand equity.
“We started Elrhino because we wanted to see Assam and its rhinos thrive,” said Elrhino CEO Nisha Bora. “We are creating opportunities for people to earn a truly sustainable living, one that provides economic stability for families and encourages people to preserve the natural habitats of these great animals,” said Bora.
Elrhino sees opportunities to create jobs for and build the skills of people – in the rural areas around Guwahati and the reserve forests of Assam. With its current infrastructure, Elrhino has the capacity to produce 15 tonnes of paper per year, which at capacity will equate to approximately 100 full-time jobs in paper processing and an additional 500 part-time jobs through a combination of resource collection and value-add production.
“We are committed to creating rural livelihoods and a skilled workforce in Assam,” said Sreejith Nedumpully, Upaya’s Director, Business Development. “At Elrhino, people learn two skill sets: how to make paper, and how to convert paper into products. We are very excited by the job creation potential in both areas,” Nedumpully said.
While Elrhino is Upaya’s sixth overall investment and second partnership in Assam, Nisha Bora is the first female entrepreneur in Upaya’s LiftUP Project network.
“Trust is a critical element of building successful companies in ultra poor communities, and across our portfolio we have seen a unique trust dynamic emerge between female managers and the women who work for the company,” said Nedumpully. “While she is the first woman leader we’ve partnered with, she will certainly not be the last,” he said.