"If elephant dung can be used to make paper sheets, then why cannot cow dung be turned into paper?" When Jaipur-based businessman Bhimraj Sharma faced this simple question from his daughter in 2016, it was like all the pieces fit together in one moment of inspiration.
Wasting no time, Sharma, who was into the offset printing business, started research on the idea and ended up making a paper sheet of cow dung, though not so fine, yet good enough to keep his spirit high.
"Today, the quality of this paper is not only high but there is no product, which can only be made from mill paper and not from this cow dung paper. You name it and have it," said Sharma, who heads Gaukriti company, which manufactures papers from cow dung.
Taking one step forward, Sharma experimented making items like Gulal, tiny havan-kund, Rakhis, pencils, and Holi and Diwali items with cow dung paper.
Sharma initially made items like boxes, envelopes, and diaries and today, the range of products has crossed 100 items.
From customised diaries, boxes, pencils, and decorative items to items like Rakhi — all items are being manufactured by the company, which it exports to the US and Australia.
Sharma said his friends used to mock him during the initial days of research and development.
"Today, the turnover of my company has reached Rs 1 crore. I expect that the turnover will cross Rs 1 crore in the coming fiscal year," he claimed.
Sharma said he is now working on using the dung of other animals with the cow dung to make paper and other items.
"This initiative is not only for making a profit but also for saving the environment. There is a huge demand for papers across the world and mill paper is mainly used. There is a small segment that understands the value of handmade paper. Quality of offset printing on normal handmade paper is not as high as the paper made of cow dung," he noted.
Sharma has also printed Hanuman Chalisa with pictures on the cow dung paper, while a few other books have also been published on the paper.
He said there is not much difference between products made of cow dung paper and normal handmade paper.
One sheet of paper contains 40 percent dung and the rest is made of other materials. He is using nearly 600 kg of cow dung to produce 3,000 sheets daily.
Sharma said apart from the business angle, this is also a contribution to environment protection.