“Don’t use plastics is probably the most useless statement or advice,” begins Dakshnamoorthy Durairaj, founder at SANAL (Sustainable Alternative for Non-polluting Acclimate Living), who promotes a positive adoption to plastic alternatives. “SaNal” is derived from the Tamil phrase Samudhaya Nalanil (for the benefit of the community.)
Dakshnamoorthy runs SANAL as both physical and online stores, offering over 150+ alternatives to commonly distributed daily-use plastics. “Plastics themselves aren’t bad, they have their critical uses. It is how we as a society have evolved to embracing the easily available single-use plastics that is becoming unsustainable,” he observes. When people visit his store, they are amazed at the number of alternatives he offers—from kitchenware to office products, all of them sustainably produced and easily bio-degradable after use.
As someone who discovered his awe of nature at a very young age, Dakshnamoorthy is fiercely committed to changing the public psyche to embrace sustainability. “Telling them not to use plastic is not the right communication, but showing them alternate solutions is definitely helping us convert our audience into die-hard recycle-reuse-reduce fans, and many are now rethinking about how to make their homes more sustainable,” he smiles.
He began his career as a structural engineer, and after a while, switched to full-time research and product development circa 2017. What began as experimentation quickly led to a full-blown manufacturing and sourcing organization. “I wanted even my business to be self-sustainable—no debt, no ads, no name boards, completely self-funded, and growing organically,” he recalls. “Today, we are on track to publish over 500 products, and are exploring opening more stores-on-wheels on our e-carts.”
In addition to physical products, he engineered an electric 3-wheeler that serves as a pop-up store to go around different locations in Chennai. He has designed a display and storage on top of the e-cart, and shoppers are constantly exclaiming at the space-saving concept. “People are extremely receptive to products and conversations around sustainability—from reusable glass bottles and bags to biodegradable cotton and bamboo, and find the positive reinforcement a great help in changing their consumption patterns,” he observes.
From the single store in Tiruvannamalai, Dakshnamoorthy expanded to Chennai, and is now exploring other cities, and also envisions putting over 500 e-carts on the road to take his products and concepts to the entire country.
In early 2022, he approached the Tamil Nadu government to initiate conversations around sustainable products and lifestyle, despite numerous detractors who advised him that such efforts would lead nowhere. “This proved totally false, and in less than 6 months, we pulled off a very successful trade show with over 180 ecopreneurs—not just from Tamil Nadu, but from all over India participating!” he exclaims delightedly. The government threw its support behind him—offering free space, free food, and even paying for transport and lodging for all the vendors who signed up for the expo.
Today, Dakshnamoorthy is planning on store-within-store concepts to expand SANAL’s presence. “Most retail organizations have moved to leasing space, and this works well for us. Our retail stand is easily put together, and displays our products to good traction,” he says. As more retail box stores wake up to sustainable lifestyles and choices, Dakshnamoorthy is strongly positioned to lead them to offer his wide portfolio of over 500 products.
With a judicious mix of contract manufacturing and sourcing from other states (for example, glass bottles are not made in Tamil Nadu anymore, and he sources it from Northern India), Dakshnamoorthy also provides sustainable livelihood to the people who make his products. “The cyclical value of wealth is truly felt in this market,” he observes, “as we try to simply manufacture while retaining the design and functionality of the product.”
The e-carts are another innovation in democratizing distribution—taking sustainable products to where people are, and ensuring they have access to relevant products. “Even the cart is a point of conversation,” he laughs, “as it works very similar to a Kinetic Honda with just a handlebar while looking like a 3-wheeler.” People gathering around this conversation point also recall how their mothers and grandmothers used artifacts made of clay, bamboo, jute, and other natural products.
“All I am doing is exposing them to these products being available—the sale happens almost instantly and joyfully,” smiles Dakshnamoorthy.
Visit SANAL Stores at www.sannal.com
Kuppusamy St, Sami Nagar, Ullagaram
Madipakkam, Chennai, 600091
18/7, Manakulavinayagar Kovil Street
Tamil Nadu, India