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The eco-friendly Hemp revolution | Srijan Sharma on TEDx

Srijan at TEDx foreschool
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“If we as a community are responsible for what the world eats, wears, uses, drives, and thinks about, we owe it to the world to make it a better place.”

Srijan Sharma, Co-founder Its Hemp

Srijan talks about how Hemp and Cannabis have the potential to be a centrepiece in the creation of the next generation of sustainable products and what business owners, marketers, and professionals can do to make this a reality.

Here is a transcription of this talk.

So before I start, I have something very important to tell you. Each and every one of you here owes me a standing ovation if I don’t poop my pants on stage by the end of this talk.

(audience laughs)

I have one of the coolest job roles that anyone in this country could ask for.

My parents are super proud of it. My relatives boast off about it at gatherings. And the people, they just shower their love and appreciation for the work that I do.

What is it that I do you ask?

Well, I sell Bhaang for a living. 

(audience laughs)

So much for being a Sharma Ji ka beta! 

(audience laughs)

Now just a few moments ago each and every one of you had a perception of what qualifies as bhaang or Cannabis or Hemp and it more or less looked something like this. 

<Slide: Images of Cannabis bud, bhaang goli, drinks, and joints>

Even though this image is not wrong, this is not what my Bhaang looks like.

There is a strong taboo associated with the plant and the industry that I am working in. Some people say it brings you closer to the devil, others say it makes you dumb, reduces your IQ and makes you act crazy. Like coming unprepared on a TEDx stage.

Some other’s also call it a gateway drug. The general consensus, however, is that it damages your life beyond repair and spoils the lives of those around you.

Now, this being said, I think this plant is really misunderstood and it has a lot more to offer. The stigma dictates that it’s just a weed, but that is not all that the plant is good for. This is what my bhaang looks like. 

<Slide: Images of Cannabis clothes, edibles, grooming products, accessories, etc.>

Our world has become more consumerist than ever before. We define our lives around the things we possess. This consumerism coupled with the fact that the companies have a growing ideology of capitalism has done more damage to our environment than we can possibly imagine. 

In the midst of all this, there is Hemp, a non-psychoactive species of Cannabis, which is probably the only natural resource that has over 25000 end uses. From apparels to automobiles, from fuel to paper, from construction to medicine, from personal grooming to animal husbandry, there are over 40 industries that use hemp as a healthier, earth-friendly alternative raw material, making it one of the most valuable plants to ever grow on the planet.

Let me put that into perspective for you.

Imagine fulfilling the entire world’s clothing requirement with just 1/4th the amount of water, half the energy, without using insecticides or pesticides, while saving up the land used to do so. 

This is what we can achieve if we replace cotton with Hemp Fabric.

How about creating a plant-based source of Omega-3 & 6 for consumption and topical use without having to kill a single fish in the ocean by growing and using hemp seeds as a source for highly nutritional Hemp Seed oil.

Or how about creating extremely insulated and sustainable housings without having to dig through the earth for raw materials for cement. This is what we can do if we use a simple mixture of Hemp shives and lime, also known as hempcrete.

And create an alternate source for paper without having to cut down a single tree for pulp by using the fast-growing Hemp Plants as a source of raw material instead.

Maybe create preventive care products to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, pain, seizures, and also possibly find cures to dreadful diseases like cancer from Cannabis plant extracts.

Now, if all of this is not enough, I’d also like you to know that Hemp is also used for creating bio-plastics, bio-fuel, bio-leathers and more!

All this while leaving a carbon-negative footprint. This is the entire production and cultivation of the plant absorbs in a lot more Carbon dioxide than it gives out from the atmosphere.

All of this while creating a positive economic domino effect that essentially improves the lives of everyone around us and creates a socially uplifting scenario.

We can achieve all of this if we start using sustainable hemp products.

but there is this really shocking fact.

People don’t use Hemp products

Isn’t it shocking? Yes? No? Obviously not, right?

So I spent the last couple of months trying to figure out why this happens. Why people don’t buy products or why they are not shifting to a sustainable alternative even though there are a plethora of opportunities available. 

As it turns out, there are 4 key markers that define which products get adopted and which don’t make the cut.

<slide showing the four markers>

And if there is one thing that excessive smoking and drinking have taught the world, that is everything can be achieved with good marketing.

So that is what I have been doing ever since. 

I have been making Hemp cool again.

And you all remember that for a Living I sell? Bhaang. 


So now that we have that in place, let’s talk about how we’re doing it.

We aren’t talking to a billion people.

Believe me or not, I think all of you are already calling me crazy, but, there is a possibility that every single Indian can adopt at least one Hemp product. Now, we would love to enable that, but realistically it is not possible for us.

So, instead of talking to every Tom, Dick and Harry or Ramesh, Suresh, Kamlesh as we should always call them in India. (audience laughs)

We are creating a community of people who resonate with the idea that we have and are willing to share it. We call them Hemp advocates. As of today, we have over 200 Hemp Advocates who have officially registered with us and they have enabled over 50,000 Indians to educate themselves about Hemp and Cannabis.

This meant that we now have an audience to talk to.

Next issue was the product perception.

How do we change the perception that people have towards Hemp Products?

We want people to boast of there new Hemp Bags and shoes, just like they talk about their Gucci and Prada. So, we had to change the narrative a little. Instead of telling people that a certain sustainable product is good for the environment, we changed the narrative to how cool they are for owning such a product.

We’re making Hemp supported lifestyle a status symbol, and not just another sustainable product. In fact, we’ve dedicated this entire year to Hemp, with this quirky campaign called, ‘Ye Saal Bhaang ke naam’ where people like yourself get rewarded for consciously adopting sustainable hemp products, making it a Hempy 2020.

So, one of the biggest issues hemp has right now is that people probably don’t understand it. Indians think that hemp is just another western concept and they couldn’t care less about it. And that meant that every time we were about to make a sale, for every single person we had to educate him over and over again about what Hemp is and that conversation more or less ended up or generally now starts like this, bhaiya aapko pata hai bhaang kya hoti hai? Ussi ko English me Hemp kehte hain bhai.

So we did the only logical thing that we could do, we started addressing it with its indigenous name. And let’s be honest, ‘Meri nayi Bhaang wali Shirt’ sounds way cooler than my new Hemp Shirt’

Once we had that in place where people were ready to accept bhaang as what it is, a natural resource, we started talking to people about what the next big hurdle for them is. 

For anyone who is willing to dive headfirst into a sustainable journey, needs to know where to start from. I mean, I want to buy sustainable hemp products, but I don’t know if this hemp kurta is the best choice for me. Or maybe, the hemp paper that I want to print my new poster on would be as good as the ones that I already have. This hemp soap might really be very good for my skin or I might just be allergic to Hemp seed oil. How would I know all of this?

So, to solve this problem, we did the one thing that millennials do. We created a digital platform. Now all of you can explore and learn more about Hemp Products, every single product available in the Indian market and then make a conscious decision of choosing the one’s that make sense for you.

In order to make things affordable for people, we started developing a Hemp Starter Kit. This allows early adopters to experiment with new sustainable products, without having to spend thousands of rupees on them.

Now, this is where things started getting interesting. We had a product in place, we had a positive perception about these products, but there are still a lot of inhibitions that people have. 

How do you start creating a demand for such a product? 

the easiest thing was that we realised that people start adopting products really quickly when they are gifted to them. They don’t have to think about which product they have to adopt. And that is what we did last December, we hosted a nationwide secret Santa event where over a hundred Hempy Santas, anonymously gifted each other Hemp Products and then took to social media to talk about it.

That kind of brought us to the loop where we are right now where people on a regular basis are adopting Hemp products with us and the good part is that it is not just a blind adoption. It is a very informed decision that they make.

 Amazing right? Things you can do with an engineering degree in India. 

(audience laughs)

That aside, its business professionals like you and me who control what the world believes to be the best for them and if as a group we are responsible for what the world eats, drives, uses, wears, and thinks about, we owe it to the world to make it a better place. 

They say that the smartest people of our generation are thinking of how to make people click ads and I truly believe that these people have the power to change the world more than ever before only if they put their hearts to it.

Hemp has the potential to replace 95% of our daily use products with healthier, sustainable and earth-friendly alternatives. 

The only thing it needs from us is Good Marketing.

Hey! no Poop!

(audience laughs)

Thank you guys!

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