Coconut leather bags made by start-up Malai Bio Materials Design Private Limited.
As ironic as it may sound, it took Zuzana Gombosova, a woman from Slovakia, to explore the business potential of coconut water in the country that derives its name from the coconut tree.
Four years ago, Mrs. Gombosova founded a start-up, Malai Bio Materials Design Private Limited, based in Panavally in the Alappuzha district, dealing with coconut skin, touted as an alternative to conventional leather. It is now registered with Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) and has received some funding.
Veronica Sheryl, Senior Consultant at Malai Bio Materials Design Private Limited and Candida Fernandez, Marketing Specialist, at their booth at Kochi Design Week in Bolgatty.
Ms. Gombosova came to Kerala as a materials researcher and began to explore the potential of the ubiquitous coconut water, which is the basic raw material for the production of coconut skin.
“The coconut water is fermented and the resulting translucent bacterial foam, called nata-de-coco, is about 70% of the raw material, with the rest made up of various fibers in the production of coconut skin sheets. Coconut leather can be used to make almost all leather products except textiles because it is not waterproof,” said Veronica Sheryl, a senior consultant at the start-up, at a counter set up as part of the ongoing Kochi Design Week in Bolgatty.
Until this year, they limited themselves to the production of coconut skin sheets, which they distributed to their customers, also in Europe. They have a production unit in Panavally, while the main raw material for nata-de-coco comes mainly from North India. Now the start-up has taken up the production of various leather goods and has tied up with a production unit in Chennai.
“We have customers from all over the country and Europe and we need up to 120 kg of nata-de-coco per week. We mainly associate ourselves with small designers. Our goal is to promote the use of coconut skin, which is completely natural and does not pose a threat to the ecosystem,” said Sheryl.
Although the pandemic took its toll, the start-up got back on its feet.