Apurva Kothari is set on a mission to bring ‘Fair Trade’ into Fashion and every household
Change and reform have been words we often use lightly. We all aim for both within our lives and in our surroundings but not a lot of us really do much about what we feel or how we feel. But then again, there are a few people, not like the rest of the world, the reformers, who set paths for people to follow. Apurva Kothari is one them, whose life changed after reading the dreadful numbers on farmer suicides while crunching numbers in Silicon Valley.
Apurva has now started one of the very few eco-friendly and fair-trade t-shirt/ clothing company in India called ‘No Nasties’
APURVA BEFORE ‘NO NASTIES’:
Apurva had a story quite similar to that of the millions of Indian Engineers who left India to get a Master’s Degree but stayed back making big money. He got married to his college sweetheart, who is now the co-founder and designer at ‘No Nasties’. Things were going pretty good in terms his life and how he always wanted to lead it. Everything was going right, just that he was never completely happy.
Until one-day when Apurva had convinced his wife and himself that they could create a difference back home.
What led to this decision? It was an article Apurva read on farmer suicides in India a little over three years before making this decision and worked on his master plan, even if flawed at places, ever since, right up to the point of leaving the USA.
Apurva had over this time begun switching to an eco-friendlier (or sustainable) lifestyle which included consuming local produce, wearing eco-friendly clothes etc. but he knew that this was not enough and there is a bigger reform he was yet to bring.
He realized if he had to bring the true difference to his countrymen, he would have to return home. And that was what he did, with the support of his wife and family. A year after he returned to India, Apurva started working on creating a t-shirt brand that would not just be eco-friendly but also wouldn't exploit the farmers in the country.
The philosophy of the brand was, “people want to make a difference but do not necessarily want to change their lifestyle” and they brought that change in people.
THE BEGINNING OF ‘NO NASTIES’:
The concept of “Fair Trade” and “Eco- Friendly” produce that costs more than what a regular consumer would spend at a retail store was something very new for Indian consumers. The idea was also to cater to the design sensibilities of young Indians AND create a product that is sustainable.
Before starting the set up in India, Apurva extensively researched on organic farming and made a business module that would promote ethical farming and would introduce “Fare-trade” as a term for consumers across the markets. For 16 months, Kothari continued to research on the availability of organic cotton and the existing market for organic clothing in India. He sadly found out that players in the market were export-oriented and there wasn't much available for consumers. In the end, he risked his own finances and invested in the business. The company did take on more than what they could chew initially, lost a huge portion of their investment, but Apurva did not quit. He invested once again.
But this time, invested cautiously. Slowly from T-shirts, they expanded to a 100% cotton Fairtrade clothing line with his wife Shwetha on board as the lead designer. From a team of 2, they became 4 and the growth became more stable. They relocated to Goa, to live a life away from all the noise and intimidation the cities created. Moved to a place where they felt a sense of community and belonging.
THE JOURNEY OF ‘NO NASTIES’:
The key to understanding why Apurva does what he does begins with understanding the concept of Fare trade. A set-up where farmers are paid the amount they need to be paid, using seeds for crops that aren’t Genetically modified, paying the farmer an additional amount that would help in supporting them further, trying to eliminate every reason a farmer might consider something as extreme as suicide. Giving a chance for their children to still go to school instead of having their 11-year-old make clothes for other 11-year-olds somewhere across the globe.
Apurva had done extensive research on his vendors and suppliers, never compromising even a bit on their products, it’s quality or origin. When they tell you it is 100% cotton, it is a 100%. One thing that Apurva realized was that no one was willing to share the names of suppliers fearing a competition in the market. But Apurva looked at things in the exact opposite manner. He felt if he could share his supplier information with people who are trying to work for the same cause, it would only help in the growth of the cause. It has never been about profits for Apurva and only about building a community awareness through it.
If you take a look at their packaging, even that is a 100% organic. Everything except for a plastic cello tape (due to lack of options in the market) is all upcycled or eco- friendly. They have now been exploring denim made out of cotton and all the other iterations they can do with their fabric and dye.
APURVA & ‘NO NASTIES’NOW:
Apurva now leads a life where they work out of an office thrice a week. Reach out to all the people within their community and help each other in whatever little ways they can, creating a sense of belonging that is often missing in most lives. Apurva does agree that his life might not be as glossy as it was back in the US, but he is definitely more content.
Apurva now runs a successful and completely transparent business. The ‘No nasties’ website now caters to customers from over 80 countries across the globe, spreading awareness for his cause along the way. They have opened their first ‘No Nasties’ store in Goa where a four-legged friend will greet you as you enter. With big plans for his cause and his company, Apurva and his team are working towards making this world a better place, becoming reformers in their own right. The first bold step of many is the hardest, but a first step is all it takes.