What drives us from within, is our will to be the change we want to see in the world. One such story is of a man named Shubhendu Sharma, who left his high paying job as an engineer in Toyota to plant trees for the rest of his life. The man, using his unique Miyawaki technique to grow saplings, converts any barren land into a self-sustainable forest in couple of years.
The change began when Sharma, along with naturalist, Akira Miyawaki, went to cultivate a forest at Toyota plant. He was impressed with Miyawaki’s technique who had regenerated forest from Thailand to Amazon, and decided to replicate the model in India.
He started to experiment with the model and came up with an Indian version after making slight modifications to the strategy. His first attempt with making forests was in his own backyard in Uttarakhand, where he successfully grew a lush green forest within a year’s time.
The success gave him confidence and he decided to launch it as a full time initiative. Shubhendu Sharma quit his job and spent almost a year further study and research on the methodology. After much planning, research and enthusiasm, he started Afforrestt, an end-to-end service provider for creating natural, wild and maintenance-free, native forest in 2011. He was clear on his terms and wanted his business to a for-profit organization.
“I realized it can’t be done as a ‘do gooder” activity. If I wanted it to succeed, I had to think it through and come up with a business plan, and a bunch of my friends helped me to set it up,” says Sharma.
Step by step, the forest man of India successfully started his team of six, and began operating from Bangalore. Initial troubles with finding the right customers and dealing with the dynamics of business environment were solved to some extent when Afforrestt received its first order by German furniture maker to plant 10,000 trees. Besides, to develop a better understanding, here is how Afforestt works:
Firstly, it provides end-to end services, where the organization provides complete project execution and management services, which includes arrangement of labour materials, equipment, tools and facilities required to execute an afforestation project using the Miyawaki Method.
The second way is providing project management, on-site consulting and software support. The execution of process starts with doing a soil survey and finding out what element does the soil lack. The minimum land size requirement for the same is 1,000 sq ft. After the survey, saplings are prepared in the nursery and soil is mixed with biomass to make it more fertile.
Finally, the process of planting 50 to 100 varieties of native species at a destiny of 3-5sq meter starts. The last part involves only watering and weeding the areas for next two years, after which the forest becomes self-sustainable.
What still stands behind is the mountain of problems that keep showing up. While the Miyawaki technique is praised by all, keeping a steady cash flow is difficult because of a very niche market. “The biggest challenge was to launch something which had no existing market and we didn’t even know if it ever would,” says Sharma.
Not knowing how the market would turn out, he stepped into it and slowly observed the patterns in the market. Having a forest in their backyard is not something everyone likes. Also, since this was a first-of-its-kind thing, there was no help available. Even after finding clients who were ready to listen to this fancy method invented by Afforestt, convincing them was a whole different task.
Keeping up with the times
With a very clear vision and all the enthusiasm needed, Shubhendu Sharma has been changing the way people look at their backyards and gardens. With Afforestt, a company that has increased the internet searches on ‘how to grow a forest in your backyard’, Sharma has been driving a moment for change.
Applying the Miyawaki method in Kerala, Bangalore, Tehran, Karachi, Seattle and many more places across the globe, he has been giving hope to the environment. With a host of ideas and explanation about his business model, Shubhendu Sharma’s ted talk has garnered nearly 2 million views on YouTube.
The entrepreneur is also available on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, where he keeps his followers updated about how he is changing the world one step at a time.