Divish Gupta, an alumnus from IIT Delhi, was struggling to live an environment-friendly life. Groceries, biscuits, personal care items, even the staples-all came in plastic packaging. It was also difficult to verify the claims of the multitudes of organic brands available in the market. Most of the time sustainable alternatives were hard to find.
In April 2018, Gupta who was then working with global development organisation Digital Green left his job to brainstorm on different ways to enable people make eco-friendly purchasing decisions and live a sustainable life. In December 2018, he started LeapClub along with his IIT Delhi batchmate Shubham Bansal with a singular purpose: to mainstream earth-friendly products and make them accessible.
They zeroed in on the multicultural township of Auroville near Puducherry in Southern India to test their business case. Sustainability is an integral ethos of living in this experimental town with people who believe in conscious consumption. From its supermarket, they got purchasing data of the last five years. Based on the insights, in April 2019, they created a web app which helped individuals quantify the organic food they consumed and the type of waste they generated. Over a thousand people started using the app in Auroville.
Alongside, they also started LeapGuide, a Whatsapp group on 'actionable tips' for sustainable living that are easy to incorporate without requiring major changes in habits. At times, the founder duo conducts half-an-hour calls with those who seek personal assistance. "We are focusing on different ways to encourage behaviour change so eco-friendly life becomes a social norm, only then earth-friendly products will gain mass appeal," says Bansal.
For wider adoption and easy access, in November 2019, they launched a marketplace to curate businesses that are transparent about the social, health and environmental impact of their products. According to the information the brands share, the start up verifies their claims and assigns each product with impact tags and an impact score. Some of the tags can be: fair trade, organic, small farmer, vegan, pesticide-free, preservative-free, certified organic, 100% natural, plastic-free, amongst others. This makes it easy for consumers to make purchases on the basis of their value system. Users can buy these products online or find nearby shops where they are available.
Currently, the focus is on food products, personal care brands and personal hygiene items. They have got 150 products listed from brands such as Safe Harvest, Farm Veda, Nourish Organics, EcoFemme on board. They are also working with small retail stores that sell organic and natural products and have a strong following to open online stores on their website and expand their reach. They charge a one-time listing fee from brands as they onboard, and a commission on all online transactions.
They compete with players like Qtrove that sells non-mass produced products from small entrepreneurs and The Better India's marketplace of sustainable products Karnival.com.
They have received an equity-free grant of Rs 47 lakhs from Entrepreneurs for Impact (E4i) fellowship programme by Social Alpha, the non-profit incubator funded by Tata Trusts. The focus now is to expand their brand partner portfolio and scale up their consumer base using social media initiatives.