Started by Maithreyi Lakshmi Ratan, Wild Ideas manufactures household and personal care products that are chemical-free. A women-centric formal rural enterprise, Wild Ideas empowers women to stand on their own feet through the manufacture and sales of clean, natural, environmentally friendly products. A fully compliant and licensed entity owned by women, for women with a clear mandate to do only good by the earth.
The Organic World: How did the idea to start Wild Ideas come about?
Maitreyi Lakshmi Ratan: Living in rural Tamil Nadu in Tiruvannamalai brought a few things in focus. What stood out was women were in dire need of jobs. Previously, here, women took care of the home but also contributed financially by doing farm work. The changing nature of agriculture and its mechanization meant the loss of income from seasonal farming jobs and women didn’t have any source of income locally. Simultaneously there was growing interest in urban India – for chemical-free home cleaning products, chemical-free personal care products and organic food products. But people were not committing to this path. I was determined to demonstrate that chemical-free living was no pipe dream. It was real, effective and absolutely possible. We wanted to remove all excuses. We focused on end to end solutions and gave people quality, effectiveness, affordability and convenience.
So Wild Ideas came about as a result of these two ideas. Helping rural women stand on their own feet by providing urban customers with Earth friendly solutions that worked.
TOW: What made you realise there was a demand for such products and make this the USP of Wild Ideas?
MLR: In the initial years we were focusing on building the soil, and growing a wide range of organic crops. We soon learned that we couldn’t look at farming independent of waste and water management and realised the water leaving our houses was full of chemicals. It was then that our quest for natural, chemical free, effective alternatives began. We began to seriously research traditional recipes, elders in tribal groups, friends, and family shared their knowledge of amazing recipes and ideas. Further experimentation followed, proportions were perfected and locally available ingredients were substituted. Soon the household was 100% chemical-free. Friends and family who started using these products found them effective and turned their households around too. Suddenly it clicked. People needed economic independence and we had products that if sold would provide them with a viable livelihood besides being critical as a way to clean our water systems. Thus began Wild Ideas.
TOW: What are some of the products that you retail?
MLR: We make 100% organic/natural, highly effective household cleaners, personal cleaners, vadams and other organic home care solutions for your home and family. We use ingredients such as soap nuts, tamarind leaves and orange peels. The packaging and design is earth-friendly and in line with our ethos. The idea is simple: Be good to Yourself, Your Home and the Earth.
TOW: How has Wild Ideas changed the life of these women?
MLR: Given the opportunity and the right environment, these remarkable women have shown the capacity to learn new skills and adapt their innate ingenuity to the requirements of the modern urban world. They have been fully trained on all aspects of running a business. From reading labels to weighing ingredients, and from following proportions to maintaining quality standards, every simple link in the process chain has been a huge learning experience for them. Watching rural women picking up the courage to learn to ride a moped or talk to the outside world more confidently, finding peace and happiness in their daily lives, or a neighbouring farmer make the change to organic cultivation gives us hope for the future. All their children are educated through our education sponsorship program through college. We hope these projects can serve as the engine for young people to learn new skills, for women to free themselves from economic dependence, for farmers to grow organic and for the community at large to find its balance.