Edible dinner plates from wheat bran and drinking straw from dry coconut fronds are among the innovations that have won hearts, business orders and an invite from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Office for a group of budding entrepreneurs from Kerala.
They are among some 300 innovators from across the country who will meet the Prime Minister on October 17.
The five entrepreneurs, who have now been invited to Delhi, and dozens of others like them from the State, are among those who incubated their business ideas using facilities at Kerala Agricultural University’s (KAU) Agri-Business Incubation Centre, established in 2017.
The entrepreneurs who got an invite from the PM’s Office include Vinay Balakrishnan from Aluva, who has developed and is marketing edible dinner plates and hopes to launch edible cutlery shortly; Saji Varghese, based in Bengaluru, who has developed drinking straws from dry coconut fronds, which are in great demand abroad; Rijish Rajan from Palakkad, who has developed an app that can be used even by unlettered farmers; Manas Madhu, based in Alappuzha, who has developed a method to fry fruit chips which are healthier; and Jaimi Saji from Wayanad who makes ready-to-cook ‘payasam’ from jack fruit seeds.
K.P. Sudhir, director of the incubation centre, too has received an invitation to join the Prime Minister’s meet.
Mr. Balakrishnan holds a master’s degree in geology. He said on Wednesday that he was surprised by the turn of events. His company, Vir Naturals, produces plates under the brand, Thooshan, after the banana leaves on which a traditional ‘sadya’ is served in Kerala.
He said the plates were in great demand in north India while smaller orders were received periodically from customers in the State. The lead products are 10” and 6” plates. He said he hoped to launch cutlery soon. The plates were made by robots under completely hygienic conditions and the plates could be eaten after the dinner safely, he added.
Dr. Varghese teaches English literature at Christ College, Bengaluru. He said he was inspired by the coconut fronds and felt he could make something creative out of them. Rajkumar Vaniyan, who oversees the production of the drinking straws (brand Sunbird), is based in Kasaragod, where the production takes place. There was great demand for the product in the U.K., France and Germany, among others, while there was some shortage of product to meet the demand from the U.S., Mr. Vaniyan added.