Saravanan Krishnan
Saravanan Krishnan

Your friendly neighbourhood ‘Iron Man’ goes sustainable

Speaking to DT Next about The Istri Project, Cyril Joseph, a member of the initiative says, “We previously worked to empower tea vendors and helped them. We discovered the problem areas that iron vendors face in Bangalore. We noticed that coal took somewhere between 2 to 3 hours to heat, the ashes from the iron box ruined clothes, they had to close whenever it rained, and the price of coal.”

CHENNAI: Unexpected rains are the best and their arrival unannounced is always a gentle surprise. However, so is not the case for Saravanan Krishnan from Anna Nagar, who has an iron cart under a tree. Many iron vendors across the city struggle to keep efficient work going with external issues like- climate, the cost of coal, heating time for coal and wearing out of the iron box.

To provide solutions to the problems faced by these iron vendors, Chennai-based non-profit Udhyam surveyed and studied the industry. On October 2022, Udhyam began The Istri Project with the aim of giving achievable solutions which could be followed consistently even without their help.

The non-profit, Udhyam, has two wings- ‘Vyaapar’ and ‘Shiksha’. The vyaapar wing aims to help nano entrepreneurs (street vendors) by providing them with the right connections, making their businesses sustainable and increasing their business profits by 20 to 30 per cent.

Speaking to DT Next about The Istri Project, Cyril Joseph, a member of the initiative says, “We previously worked to empower tea vendors and helped them. We discovered the problem areas that iron vendors face in Bangalore. We noticed that coal took somewhere between 2 to 3 hours to heat, the ashes from the iron box ruined clothes, they had to close whenever it rained, and the price of coal.”

Other than these issues, he says, they are also faced with work hazards like inhaling a lot of smoke and having to often replace their iron box due to wear and tear.

On average, iron vendors spend Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 on coal per month. While the team began looking for an alternative for the coal-run iron box, they decided to work with LPG iron boxes.

“The LPG iron box has been around since 2009. However, not many know of its existence. The LPG iron box runs on input fuel and this solved all the problems we identified. The box heats up quickly; therefore, they can iron more clothes and have extra time to earn more money. They will also be saving Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 per month and make a profit of Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000,” he says.

The organisation approached a couple of iron vendors in the city and introduced them to the LPG iron box in the hope that these early adopters encourage more vendors to join the bandwagon. The team is also in touch with the iron vendors associations and groups to spread the word, while also collaborating with corporations and influencers.

“We are also tied up with retailers who sell the conventional coal-iron boxes and told them to also have the LPG-run iron boxes on display and educate its benefits. Once the awareness is spread, we will exit the project and let it run smoothly and only take care of subsidies. We will give the iron boxes to the late adopters at subsidised rates on an EMI basis,” he adds.

In the last five months, 820 iron vendors have benefitted from it and it’s still counting. This year The Istri Project hopes to reach a more significant number.

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