“Unemployment is the root cause of increasing insurgency and terrorism in North East India. The way out of the unemployment and insurgency scenario is to promote self-employment amongst the rural youth of this region by encouraging and supporting them to set up their own micro enterprises. Micro enterprises in rural areas not only generate employment for the entrepreneur but also more direct and indirect employment amongst the immediate society.”
                                                                                                                           -Arindam Dasgupta
                                                                                                                            CEO, Tambul Plates Marketing Pvt. Ltd.
Tamul (arecanut) trees are found in abundance in Assam and other parts of north-east India. However, the potential of this resource was undiscovered until 2005, when a group of youth from the Barpeta district of lower Assam under the leadership of Arindam Dasgupta came up with the idea of making ecological disposable plates and bowls from the mature sheaths of the arecanut plant as an alternative to the non-biodegradable plastic and styrofoam plates available in the market. This initiative has now grown mammoth providing employment to numerous villagers, especially women, from the local and neighbouring districts as well as creating various subsidiary units of production where villagers produce on their own machines, thus inculcating the spirit of entrepreneurship amongst them.

A villager cycles to work crossing a wooden bridge in Balapara village, Assam
A cultural performance during the festival of Holi in Barpeta, Assam. Assam is culturally one of the most vibrant states in India with festivals, dance and songs of celebration being sung throughout the year
Devotees singing Naam Gaan, prayers in praise of God during the festival of Holi in Barpeta, Assam. The youth of Barpeta participate in all the festivals actively throughout the year
The state of Assam is politically and socially quite vulnerable having been scarred by riots and separatist movements in its past. The participation of youth in protests and political activities is quite visible across the state 
Residents of Barpeta playing a game of carrom. This is one of the favourite pass times of the people here. Repeated failures of government mechanisms to provide employment opportunities to the rural youth has led to large-scale unemployment amongst them
A group of friends hanging out and having a good time in a village near Barpeta
Candidates line up for an opening in the State Police Service in Barpeta. Government jobs are the most highly preferred jobs for the youth in Assam due to the ease of work and job security. However the number of candidates seeking jobs is much higher than required resulting in massive unemployment 
The hills of Meghalaya. The north- east is known for its beautiful landscapes. Arecanut trees are found widely across the state
Moniram Narzary, a subsidiary producer of Tamul plates going to his place of work on a rainy day in Balapara, Assam. Tamul Plates Marketing Pvt Ltd (TPMPL) has been able to generate employment in the deep interiors of the rural hinterland through its venture of producing bio-degradable plates
An arecanut sheath-collector in Mushalpur, Assam. TPMPL has been able to generate employment at multiple levels, from collection of raw materials to the production and marketing of the plates 
Sheath-collectors in Anadabazar, Assam
Arecanut trees are found widely across most of the north-eastern states of India. While the nut was a major source of income for the villagers who sell it across the region, the sheaths were of no use before. After TPMPL's venture into arecanut-plate production the dry sheath has started generating additional income for the villagers
Sheath-collectors in Mushalpur, Assam. A good quality sheath earns them better so they take great care in keeping the sheaths safe and dry for supplying it to the producers
The sheaths are tied in bundles and supplied to the main unit of production in Barpeta as well as subsidiary units across various villages in the state  
A women collects sheaths to sell it to the plate producers. Women participate actively in the collection process thus helping them earn and making them financially independent
A couple in Mushalpur look on after selling the collected sheaths. Old, young, men and women participate enthusiastically in collecting the sheaths for bringing additional income to their households 
Arecanut-sheath collectors in Balapara, Assam
Moniram Narzary (in red) in front of his sheath storage at his production unit in Balapara, Assam. TPMPL employees hand-hold and guide their subsidiaries in developing their business during their weekly visits to their production units 
Moniram Narzary sets up a sheath-drying machine at his production unit in Balapara, Assam. The state of Assam faces one of the highest amounts of rainfall in the country. TPMPL has developed a locally made machine which keeps the sheaths dry even during heavy monsoons.  
Setting up the drying machine at Balapara, Assam. TPMPL provides financial and technical support to the villagers who decide to scale-up their leaf plate production
Dhaneshwar Baishya and his family being explained the workings of a newly set-up drying machine in Kairani, Assam
The sheaths being washed before moulding it into plates in Anadabazar, Assam
Drying of washed sheaths. Once the sheaths are dry they are ready to be pressed into the machine to make plates 
Moniram Narzary along with his wife, Renu Narzary producing the plates in their production unit in Balapara, Assam
Renu Narzary spends the entire day producing leaf-plates and doing household chores. The waste leaves are left on the ground which decompose and add nutrients to the soil
Renu Narzary at her workplace in Balapara, Assam
Pranjit Das another subsidiary unit holder at his production unit in Anadabazar, Assam. He in-turn employs five villagers for producing, packaging and storing the plates and wants to become the next Dhirubhai Ambani 
An employee of Pranjit Das at his unit in Anadabazar, Assam. He operates the machine along with Pranjit
Employees of Pranjit Das at his unit in Anandabazar. They collect, wash, dry and store the dried sheaths
Pranjit Das with his family in Anandabazar, Assam. He is involved full-time in the production of arecanut leaf-plates and has generated employment which has earned him a lot of respect in his village
The TPMPL factory unit for the production of plates in Barpeta, Assam
A TPMPL employee sorting the sheaths collected from various villages around Barpeta, Assam. Through the process of  sorting, storing, washing, producing, packaging and marketing, TPMPL employs nearly sixty rural youth apart from the individual subsidiary units in the villages
Washing the collected sheaths before production at TPMPL's central unit in Barpeta, Assam
The production unit at Barpeta houses multiple plate-manufacturing machines where production goes on round-the-clock in three shifts
Utpal Das, from Barpeta, one of the leading plate producers at the unit. The employees earn on a piece-rate basis
A freshly pressed arecanut leaf-plate 
Plates and bowls of different sizes are produced and packaged with great care. The plates produced by the subsidiary village units are bought back at market rates by TPMPL 
The plates are supplied and are sold at retail stores across India, Europe and USA. The plates are becoming extremely popular for being bio-degradable and environment friendly and is vastly entering new markets replacing ecologically harmful styrofoam plates
People enjoying their food on Tamul Plates. They are light, sturdy and decompose in sixty days and hence easily disposable
Visitors at the Ziro Music Festival enjoying local cuisine on Tamul Plates. 
TPMPL has generated not only employment opportunities in North-east India but has developed entrepreneurs and undertaken a sustainable business model that benefits the people and the environment.
Supported by: Tamul Plates Marketing Private Limited
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