Think about the first bicycle you rode as a kid. Ever wondered what happened to it? It probably went to an overflowing landfill, where it will take more than 30 years for it to degrade, as revealed by a 2020 study published in Resources, Conservation and Recycling. Kids grow out of things in the blink of an eye and often leave a trail of plastic behind. Recognising this issue, four parents of young teens decided to find a solutions-focused approach, which led to them starting GroClub in early 2022.
The Bengaluru-based startup taps into the new generation of parents’ desire to bring a 'do good to the environment' factor in the way they bring up their kids. As parents, the founders, Pruthvi Gowda, Hrishikesh HS, Sapna, and Roopesh Shah are on a mission to disrupt the access economy—buying things for short-term use—and transform it into a circular economy. Circular economy, in this context, focuses on recycling and reuse of products that kids use. For instance, using a product until the kid grows out of it which is then repurposed for another kid. With this idea, the four founders launched GroClub, which currently focuses on kids' favourite item: a bicycle.
“Our kids go through behavioural and physical transformation so they outgrow products such as bicycles in six months or year. While using bicycles is good, for the environment, it helps if it’s used until its full potential. There is a huge carbon footprint involved in the process of manufacturing bicycles until it reaches the market. Usually, bicycles are designed to last 10 years, but as the kids use them only for a short time, most of these end up in a corner of a house and eventually, a landfill," co-founder and CEO Pruthvi Gowda tells Lounge.
GroClub is a subscription platform, which they claim is the first in India to promote a circular economy among kids. Parents can subscribe to a bicycle, starting at ₹ 250 per month. Once the kid grows out of it, the bicycle is refurbished into a new product and sent to another consumer. The maintenance and servicing of the bicycle are taken care of by GroClub during the ownership period. According to GroClub, this not only extends the lifespan of bicycles but also delivers five times the value compared to conventional bicycles with a two-year lifespan.
“We make sure every refurbished bike looks and works like a brand new one. That way kids don’t feel a difference and feel good about choosing sustainability,” says Gowda.
Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, not just in the near future when they inherit a planet with all kinds of scarcities but also in the present, when the effects are impacting their health and mental well-being. According to The Lancet Global Survey published in September 2021, 68% of children and young people from India are extremely worried about climate change. However, as the United Nations puts it, “Young people are not only victims of climate change. They are also valuable contributors to climate action.” GroClub is building models of climate action that can be shown to young teens, educating them about solutions-focused approaches such as a circular economy.
“Teen years are the right time to reach your kids the importance of adopting sustainable solutions and showing how to do it is better than just talking about it. Moreover, kids might continue to adopt such habits throughout their lifetime if the foundation is strong,” Gowda says.
A subscription model also makes products accessible to wider income groups. Often, affordability is a barrier when people want to own quality products, forcing them to make a compromise.
“About 25 million kids are born in India every year and among them, at least 2 to 3% can afford or own products such as strollers, kids' car seats, toys, and kids' furniture. We want to cater to them in the near future and bring in a subscription model for these products. We believe that a significant amount of carbon footprint can be reduced if we build models that educate people to be responsible consumers,” says Gowda.
Currently, GroClub is considering expanding to Hyderabad, Pune and Mumbai and adding more products to their subscription model.