“Pragathi” is a Hindi word translated as “progress.” For the conscious western consumer as well as rural Indian villagers and artisans, progress is exactly what co-founders Adam Iversen and Pradeep Sharma are looking to create through their recently launched NGO, Pragati Palms.
After participating in an Acara course at the University of Minnesota, which challenges students to develop a socially and environmentally sustainable entrepreneur plan, Iversen received a grant from the university to travel to India and explore possible business partnerships.
Initially, Iversen and native-Indian Sharma planned to create a business focusing on Indian handicrafts. While visiting a rural Indian village, however, they stumbled upon a man handing out business cards made from palms. Iversen and Sharma were so impressed with the cards they thought they would order some for themselves as a way of representing Indian artisans. According to Iversen, “The reaction to our business cards was so positive, though, that we said ‘hey this could be a business in itself’ “ and thus the focused business of Pragati Palms business cards was born.
Pragati Palms is based out of Orissa, India, a rural state known for its elaborate palm leaf etchings. The business, therefore, offers villagers work relatively similar to art forms in which they participate. Pragati Palms honors Orissa’s culture and skill set while providing an alternative to the western print industry for environmentally and socially conscious western consumers. “When one ton of palm leaf waste is burnt, it produces 1.8 tons of carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming,” according to Tafline Laylin of GreenProfit.com. Pragati Palms recycles these palms into a new product avoiding environmental damage and producing jobs.
Dead palm fronds are collected by villagers and sent to a local workshop where women employed by Pragati Palms’ NGO partner, Dedicated to People, are cut into 1.5” by 3.5” business cards. Consumers can upload their own design or chose from one of several templates on the Pragati Palms’ website. Once ordered, palm fronds are manually screen-printed one color at a time, resulting in unique business cards. The palms are waterproof and highly flexible. Consumers can purchase a set of 100 cards on the Pragati Palms website for $35.
In describing the rewarding nature of his new business, Iversen expressed his commitment to providing consumers with alternatives to products within industries like print that are not normally environmentally and socially concerned.
– Heather Klosterman