Taking care of our environment is an individual’s responsibility. Most of our disposal methods result to highly toxic emissions that remain in the environment for decades and build up in the food chain. Ian Okonu, founder of Omart understands this narrative to the core, hence his establishment of an eco-friendly start-up.
A start-up that was started with an environmental enthusiast cum IT guru, has bloomed to give opportunities for other entrepreneurs who produce eco-friendly products. Most of the products they deal with are reusable, recyclable and are biodegradable.
The start-up, branded Omart earned attention in August 2021 when the ministry of Environment and Forestry announced the launch of a campaign titled ‘Taka ni Mali’ geared at tackling environmental challenges such as waste and pollution in Nairobi, Kenya.
Statistics from Global E-waste Monitor report of 2020 shows that a record 53.6 million metric tonnes of electronic waste was generated globally in 2019, marking a 21 percent jump in just five years. The data projected that global e-waste will reach 74 metric tonnes by 2030 making e-waste the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream.
‘’There are a lot of reasons that led to the idea of starting up Omart. Looking at our human behaviours, we tend to dispose waste without caring for the environment. This does not only affect the environment but also put our health at risk. We are embracing the circular economy whereby our products don’t have waste at the end of usage. They can be reused and still remain to be resourceful. ’’ Says, Okonu.
The circular economy has played a major role in helping to reduce waste. It is made possible since most of the products can be used again and again unlike the traditional linear economic model which is based on using a product and throwing away the waste.
‘’The world is now at 7.9 billion people, meaning the resources are reducing day by day. This has led to high extraction of raw materials which is extremely ‘unhealthy’ to our environment with the emissions of CO2. So, having such environmentally sustainable business model is a huge plus to the environment.’’ He says.
The Omart start-up is no different to the modern online shopping, just that it focuses on products that are carbon-neutral and toxic-free. ‘’We give a platform for a seller dealing with eco-friendly products and also offer buyers a one-stop arena to get such products. Ideally, we are the link between the production and the consumption point. We intend to replace plastic products and thus we have products such as the bamboo toothbrush and organic skincare products, ’’ Okonu adds.
Convincing prospective buyers to embrace the circular economy has been one of the major challengers especially in a country where online shopping has had cluster of criticism from consumers. Consumers in Kenya are used to the traditional linear economic model. Earning the trust of potential buyers and get them to buy a product they are not used to and especially through online platform is not a walk in the park.
‘’Another challenge is getting vendors who deal with organic products. When we were starting, there were a good number of sellers who wished to have their products on our platform. We however couldn’t accept because of the p[products they were selling. Our focus is fully tuned to eco-friendly products. We not only deal with products produced in Kenya but all over the world. We are trying to reach a larger market hence doing most of the transactions online since we know someone in another country may also be interested in our products. That’s the power of technology taking its course.’’
Okonu agrees that the adoption of circular economy will not only save the environment but also create employment opportunities to young people and boost economies.
‘’We are building a network of youths to sell on our platform; we incorporate young entrepreneurs who are environmental conscious and help them sell their products to their target markets. Like they say, we are the leaders of tomorrow, it is best when we also consider the environment we’ll be in that tomorrow.’’ He says.