Mr Kunal Balar, Co-Owner of Herbal fab
Herbal fab offer sustainable textiles and eco-friendly dying to the garment industry. They are located in Ahmedabad, India. They are providing GOTS certified denim and chambray for The Fableists’ first range of clothing.
We spoke to co-owner Mr Kunal Balar.
The Fableists > Tell us a bit about what Herbal Fab do.
Mr. Kunal Balar > Herbal fab is mostly about promoting anything which is Organic or sustainable related to textiles and clothing. Visiting our website www.herbalfab.com will brief on the fabrics we are trying to promote, dyeing techniques we follow and custom clothing service we provide for baby to adult.
The Fableists > When did you start and what inspired you to start the company?
Mr. Kunal Balar > It is difficult to say when we started exactly. In 2007 we began researching and trying to actually understand the Organic Textile field and dyeing techniques associated. We started about a year and a half after that.
We are from a well-established, family-owned textile business that has been selling conventional shirting fabrics for men and kids in the Indian market for over 40 years.
Herbal Fab is run by two brothers Mr Prashant Balar and Mr Kunal Bala. We are both electronic engineers and started our careers in the Electronics and IT Industries but left them soon to find a more satisfying path in life and joined our family business.
But seeing the unrepairable damage done by the hazardous chemicals used at each stage of conventional textile processing we wanted to make a change – have an impact. This vision led to the birth of Herbal fab.
The Fableists > Why organic?
Mr. Kunal Balar > There will be nothing left for the generations to come if we are not sustainable in what we do and a simple rule to be sustainable is to give back to nature what you take from it in the same form; if that is not possible then in a form that is still useful or at least not harmful.
There are many factors involved in opting for Organic cotton. Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.
Organic cotton is grown without using pesticides from plants which are not genetically modified. Some other aspects of organic cotton growing:
• Organic cotton growing method protects the groundwater quality, reduces insects and disease by manipulating the ecosystem.
• Organic cotton growers prevent pests through beneficial habitat planting. It eliminates the usage of toxic chemicals that are normally used for manufacturing conventional cotton.
• Organic cotton crops yield higher organic matter, thicker topsoil, lowers modulus rupture, thus reducing soil erosion.
Benefits from the environmental point of view:
• Carbon footprint: One acre of organic cotton instead of an acre of conventional cotton reduces CO2 release by two tones a year.
• Conventional Cotton, which is planted on less than 3% of the world’s arable land, uses around 25% of the world’s insecticides and more than 10% of the world’s pesticides.
• 1/3 pound of agricultural chemicals is typically used in the production of a single cotton T-shirt.
• World Health Organization estimates that every year pesticides poison at least three million people and kills 20-40,000 people.
• Health hazard: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton crops are potential or known human carcinogens. Among these pesticides are Cyanide, Dicofol, Naled, Propargite and Trifularin, which are known cancer-causing chemicals.
• In 1995, pesticide-contaminated runoff from cotton fields in Alabama killed 240,000 fish, and currently, it is estimated that pesticides unintentionally kill 67 million birds each year.
And from the farmers’ point of view:
• Spiral of debt: Pests build up resistance to chemicals, farmer borrows money to buy more chemicals than before, farmer gets less profit from crop, repeat until farmer is destitute. In parts of India agricultural chemicals take up 60% of the farmer’s production budget. In Maharashtra alone, the government estimates that over 1,000 farmers have committed suicide since 2001 because they were irrevocably in debt.
• Most pests develop immunity to these products in 5-6 years, forcing companies to develop stronger chemicals. All these chemicals endanger the farmers and their families’ lives on a daily basis and could potentially be a hazard for all human beings using cotton products (esp the farmers who handle them day-in and day-out) as they contain trace toxins which are never eliminated.
The Fableists > Please tell us about the certification you have attained?
Mr. Kunal Balar > We are certified by Onecert for GOTS.
The Fableists > Do you work directly with farmers to buy the cotton you use?
Mr. Kunal Balar > No we are not involved in cotton growing. We are indirectly associated with the farmers but we work with the weavers and spinners.
The Fableists > How is your dying process eco-friendly? What sorts of dyes do you use?
Mr. Kunal Balar > We at Herbal Fab provide fabrics in two types of processed form:
GOTS Approved Natural Dyeing (Some also refer this as vegetable dyeing or herbal Dyeing): We have expertise in dying/printing with flowers, roots, fruits, etc., like turmeric, onion, myraballams, madder, kesu flowers, dhavadi flowers, natural indigo and more.
This not only prevents water pollution due to replacement of petrochemical dyes with vegetable dyes/natural dyes but also imparts medicinal value to cloth as many herbs used for dyeing have high medicinal value. This is not a new-found process; it was a common practice in ancient India. It is historically done by hand and on small scale. We at Herbal fab are just trying to revive the age old dyeing practice followed by our ancestors.
GOTS low Impact Dyeing: GOTS Low impact dyeing printing is the processing with low impact dyes as followed world over under GOTS standard.
The Fableists > Apart from cotton, which other textiles do you produce?
Mr. Kunal Balar > Apart from organic cotton, we promote KHADI (handspun and Handwoven) fabric, handloom fabrics, Peace silk , wood-based fibres.
The Fableists > What are Herbal Fab’s goals for the future?
Mr. Kunal Balar > We feel about 80% of people who are in this Organic field are small (Designers , Clothing start ups, etc) who are wanting to do something good but are not able to because of the high minimum order quantifies associated and other difficulties of sourcing/sewing in this already niche organic market. Our aim is to reach out to as many such individuals/companies as possible meeting their fabric/clothing needs through our set ups/experience/contacts. We believe that if many of these individuals/companies were able to pass this initial hurdle , we would no longer have this organic field labeled as “niche”.
The Fableists > What is your primary market? Who buys your product?
Mr. Kunal Balar > Our primary market is designers , wholesale/retail fabric companies , private brand/clothing companies looking for custom clothing as per specification.
The Fableists > Tell us about the denim that you are making for The Fableists.
Mr. Kunal Balar > The denim is made under a reputed set up in the world of denim making.
All dyes and chemicals used are checked and agreed against RSL. ETP plant and the water discharged is per Government Pollution Board norms. Also the, fabric is made as per GOTS STANDARD.
The Organic cotton is coming from the Vidarbha region in Akola. It encompasses approximately 27,000 acres of farmland employing nearly 3,700 farmers. All the organic cotton produced at these organic farms is certified by the Control Union Certification, Netherlands. We have the Organic cotton coming from Madhya Pradesh region also.
The Fableists > Have you seen an increase in sales recently? Are more people buying organic textiles?
Mr. Kunal Balar > Yes, definitely there is an increase from when we started off but it is more in Europe and USA with Australia catching up. But, in India it is still difficult to convince people on this.