Message on a Shell


The humble coconut is one of Nature’s biggest wonders. It has now found a new use – as a pot to grow plants in the used tender coconut shell. The shell is even getting painted to make it look attractive. That’s what Manish Advani discovered when his wife Gauri asked him to add coconut shell along with other waste for composting. It stuck him that since coconut shells were hard to compost why not fill the whole shell with manure and grow a plant instead?

He shared this brainwave with his boss at Mahindra SSG. His boss’s positive response helped Manish put on his marketing hat. Today it is one of the most innovative and effective client and community engagement strategies. It is encouraging students to grow plants in coconut shells and paint them colourfully thereby spread the larger idea of sustainability creatively at the school level. Manish is thinking big – he has roped in Jason Lewis, first man to circumnavigate the Planet Earth, to be the ambassador to promote this concept worldwide.

Excerpts from SustainabilityNext’s chat with Manish Advani, head, marketing and PR, Mahindra SSG, a Mumbai-headquartered corporate security risk consulting firm

Tell us about how the idea hit you

In January 2016, there was a massive fire in Deonar impacted Mumbai hugely. When everyone was criticizing the municipal corporation we decided to be the change we wanted to see in the city. We started with composting our waste. I was fairly new to this. Some time back, my wife Gauri gave me an empty coconut shell and asked me to put it in the compost pit. I realized it was too bulky so wondered why I can’t grow a plant in it instead. That was my Eureka moment. To my pleasant surprise, the plant grew very well.

I realized this idea could have massive potential – How an apparent waste can be turned into something of incredible value. I shared this thought with Mr. Dinesh Pillai, CEO Mahindra SSG. He seemed very excited by the potential of using this as an innovative corporate gifting concept. For a start, we gifted 2,500 plants grown in tender coconut shells to our clients and a few senior citizens. We did this on the World Environment Day on
June 5, 2016.

Now, this idea became bigger when one of the students from the three colleges –  Lala  College, Somaiya College and Aditya College – suggested how we could paint the coconut shell to make it look good. One day I casually wrote to one Rajesh Kejriwal , founder of Design Yatra by Kyoorius, if he could be open to the idea of allowing us to showcase the concept of painted coconut shells. He was excited.

How much has been done so far

What started as a simple home improvement thought has now been turned into a fully-blown campaign involving thousands of students in Mumbai and beyond. We launched our drive this September at the Kyoorius Design Yatra in Jaipur where over 300 people participated.  We also launched our Coco Painting and Planting Drive for 35 organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, ICICI, Bombay Scottish School, Visa, HDFC, Blue Dart, Asia Society, Idea Cellular, Raw Pressery, J M Financial Services, Future Generali, Mahindra Insurance Brokers.

We also delivered plants to a few senior citizens who wrote to us after reading about our initiative in Chitralekha. We were supported by Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation and NGO Stree Mukti Sangathan.
More than 2,500 people have so
far participated in the Coco
Painting initiative.

We are partnering with Rotary School of Bombay to involve 740 kids in 10 municipal schools. We are asking mainstream school students to volunteer in teaching municipal school students. We are also asking paint companies to supply paints and brushes for free.


Beyond Painting

We are also working to promote the idea of how coconut shells could be used for mulching by farmers. This idea is being built based on the work Pepsico has under taken in Brazil.

Since we want this message to go across the world we roped in Jason Lewis, first man to circumnavigate the Planet Earth, as our brand ambassador.

For so long people in cities never thought what they could actually do after enjoying the coconut water. The usual tendency is to throw it in the garbage and they become breeding places for mosquito related diseases.

If this campaign picks up it will have multiple and profound benefits – Mahindra SSG will have a great idea to promote it as part of its sustainability initiative; it can promote the concept of growing plants at home easily; engage students in a creative way which is closer to nature. It could also promote the concept of green gifting in a big way.

The bigger moral here is – listen to your wife and if required, improve on her ideas, not junk it and invite trouble. It helps to work on nutty ideas sometimes!

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