Hemp: From face masks to designer clothes, startup turns hemp into prized ingredient


The two young entrepreneurs – Haneesh Katnawer and Sonam Sodha, founders of the startup Himalayan Hemp – said they were using hemp plants to produce sanitary pad, apparels (shirts, T-shirts and designer wear), bags and shoes, besides protein powder, anti-aging and edible oils, and other cosmetic products.

They claimed their startup had used hemp plants to enable small farmers and women artisans lift their incomes in the hill states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Haneesh Katnawer, a production engineer from Himachal Pradesh, and Sonam Sodha, an MBA from Gujarat, who are also a writer and dancer, respectively, have left their well-paid private sector jobs in Gujarat to launch the startup, Himalayan Hemp, a community of hemp farmers, artisans and innovators from the two hill states.

During a discussion with IANS, the young entrepreneurs said they registered their start-up in 2019 in Himachal, processing the stem and seeds of the hemp plants successfully for producing protective face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic. They said that though the pandemic hit their start-up just a few months after it was launched, they did not lost hope.

They succeeded in netting a revenue of over Rs 20 lakh through the sales of perhaps the world’s first N95 certified hemp face mask and the oil and related products generated through the seeds of hemp plants.

Katnawer, who is the CEO of ‘Himalayan Hemp’, said they will be launching the first of its kind hemp fibre sanitary pad in two months. He disclosed that the start-up is working with 70 small hemp farmers in four districts of Uttarakhand, including Dehradun, Bageshwar, Pithoragarh and Nainital and 30 women artisans from the weaker sections in Kangra and Kullu districts of Himachal Pradesh.

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“We get raw hemp fibre and seeds from the 70 farmers. The hemp stem fibre is subsequently processed into cloth in our mechanized systems (financed by government grants) and the resultant cloth is stitched into designer wear, masks and the soon to be launched first of its kind hemp fibre sanitary pad by 30 women artisans in Himachal,” Katnawer told IANS.But it’s not just apparel and hemp seed oil based products which are part of the start-up’s product line, as the unique venture also claims to have built the first of its kind carbon negative and high thermal insulation clay hut in Kullu district, made out of bricks created from a mixture of hemp hurds (generated through hemp stem stalks), lime and clay.

“We are already selling the face masks and hemp seed oil based products, but the complete apparel line, including the first of its kind sanitary pads will be launched soon, after rigorous quality control and testing,” added Sonam Sodha, who is the MD and COO of the start-up.

The duo’s start-up, which showcased their hemp based products at the Start-Up Expo of the four-day India International Science Festival (IISF-2022) that concluded in Bhopal this week, has already won four national and three international awards, besides government grants.

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