There is little in common when a fashion designer, an engineer and a doctor specialising in Ayurvedic medicine meet. Or so it would seem.

But when Akash Chandra, an engineer, Vaibhav Anant, a graduate from National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), and Shikha Prakash, an Ayurveda doctor, met over lunch, their common objective for bringing about a positive change in society started to shape up.

As they washed down the food with beverages at a restaurant in Bengaluru nearly a year ago, the idea of eco-friendly solutions came up during the discussion. During the conversation, the doctor mentioned how straws made of bamboo could have a positive impact on everyone in the society. Since more people were consuming beverages, cutting down the use of plastic straws could have a direct benefit to society. A small effort, but it could certainly leave its mark, they concluded.

It was just the germ of an idea that Akash and Vaibhav needed. The two have been childhood friends and grew up studying together at DAV School at Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. They were also running their separate small businesses but this sounded more exciting.

In the few days after the luncheon meeting, the two decided to get down to do some serious work. They carried out some online research, connected with manufacturers of bamboo straws in China, and also found some in Assam. They soon gauged the need that they could meet. Soon, they were headed for Assam and camped there for a month to study the opportunity and understand it first-hand.

Some 12 months later, the Bengaluru-based start-up, Bambrew, lists Zomato, Olive Bar and Kitchen, Taj Chennai, Taj Bengaluru, Monkey Bar, Big Whiskey, Lalit Resorts and several others as its clients. A few distributors for their innovative product have been appointed, but since the production just cannot match the demand, more are in the pipeline.

“The demand for bamboo straws has been so good that we are running out of stock. The demand is now coming from different parts of the world,” Co-Founder Akash Chandra said on the phone.

The company now has four bamboo-processing units to make straws in Assam, and is finalising its efforts to put up another unit at Chakulia, near Jamshedpur in Jharkhand. Each such unit has about 20 workers and an investment of a little under 100,000 INR. The two friends have bankrolled the venture from their own funds. But with the unit being set up in Jharkhand, their venture could also see some official help from the state government’s policy to help local craftsmen.

Since sustainability is becoming an important business need, Akash and Vaibhav gauged the opportunity with food and beverage companies. Their hunch, supported by an entrepreneurial spirit, has proved to be correct, and the two childhood friends are looking to expand at a rapid pace. Their bamboo straws have now caught on and they will be making cups and cutlery made out of bamboo soon.

They may be in their twenties, but the two are already seasoned with their business acumen. Vaibhav, who graduated from NIFT in 2013, used to run a small company that supplied agri-products to restaurants sourced directly from villages. His company was acquired. Akash, who completed his engineering from SRM, Chennai in 2012, was running a pharmaceutical distribution business but is now focusing on Bambrew because of the opportunity it presents.

The company started with two founders. It added two more added when Ravi Kiran, an engineer from VIT University and an MBA from Great Lakes, Chennai joined them. Swapnil Abhishek, an MCA from BMSIT, Bangalore also joined as one of the founders. Their presence added to the professional capabilities of the fledgling company.

Bambrew was chosen as one of the winners among the hundreds of entries that were received at the Jagriti Yatra Sustainability Awards 2018. Coca-Cola supports Jagriti Yatra which encourages entrepreneurs and business ideas from non-urban areas.