My Life Idol~Eco friendly Ganesha~Minal Lele

Minal Lele from Mumbai (India), has devoted her life to making Eco-friendly Ganesha idols which are in great demand in India and overseas. She is the Founder of eGanesha. Before she could make this enterprise a success, she faced an acid test...find out!

We would like to know something about yourself, your education. 

My mother was a textile designer from J J School of Art in Mumbai. Because of her I realized my skill and interest in art. She developed me as an artist. All my family members stood behind me firmly and supported in each and every decision I took for my hobby and passion.  I am a commercial artist from the Applied Art College in Mumbai.

Tell us about your family.

My father was a sports person, because of him I got courage and decision-making power. Because of his support I could play carom at national level. 

When did you started making eco-friendly Ganesh idols?

At the start my mother insisted I should attend paper mesh craft-making course. Thereafter I became successful in making one Ganesh idol for my family on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi festival, this was in the year 2005.  At that time my workmanship was appreciated not only by my family members but my neighbours and friends as well. Their appreciation was naturally converted into orders for idols. That was the starting point of my business enterprise of Ganesh idols. 

Then I started to do research on biodegradable material which could be used for making the idols. As per Hindu customs the change of material for idols was also well accepted by everyone. I was also encouraged by the Indian government, I mean the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board gave me the go-ahead for the material.

Who motivated you to continue in the eco-friendly field?

I cannot forget the valuable contribution of my motivators -- mother, father, and then the response of eco lovers was my second motivator. While travelling for the same project I observed that there are many unused materials link Paper West, Clay, Mud, Sawdust which can also be effectively used for eco-friendly idols which will also overcome non-disposable idol residuals like Plaster.

Mrs. Minal  Lele in action

The industry of making Ganesh idols is male-dominated. How was the response of your industry peers when you started the enterprise?

One would agree that In India male dominance exists almost in every sector and this sector is not an exception. However, I faced this acid test but worked neck-to-neck in with male professionals.

Tell us about your experience of selling your very first e-Ganesh idol.

As a newcomer I knew there are many drawbacks in my first idol. However, the appreciation I received from my first eco-friendly customer boosted me to go ahead for making eco-friendly idols. As I started making more idols, the initial defects were easily eliminated, and then they totally disappeared! 

Your handcrafted e-Ganesh statues reach overseas too. Tell us about your overseas demand and popularity.

While answering one of your questions, I have already mentioned that the Indian government, that is, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board has already encouraged me for making eco-friendly idols. This news was highlighted by the Indian media on television and news channels. That is how I got exposure in overseas market.

What material, colours are used to make these e-Ganeshas? Do you follow any codes?

I use natural clay, paper mesh for making the idols and water-based biodegradable colours to make the beautiful and colourful idols.

Are you open to share your expertise and teach others too? 

Of course!  I am organizing free seminars for making eco-friendly Ganesh idols for all age groups free of cost! The same facility is also extended to the society for the Deaf and Dumb, mentally challenged and physically handicapped. 

As an entrepreneur what challenges you faced and how did you overcame them?

Lord Ganesh is the most favourite god in Maharashtra state in India. More importantly, the public sentiments are attached with Lord Ganesh. As an entrepreneur I have to be extra careful about these sentiments which cannot be convinced. Normally this business is carried on during rainy season. The idols must be protected from rainwater either in transit or in the workshop. At times we are supposed to protect these idols by spending from our pockets.     

As a woman did you face any difficulties from society at large?    

Yes I did. The Ganesh idol-making is typically a seasonal business in India and our deadlines are fixed. We have to deliver the idol before a particular date which falls on Ganesh Chaturthi, Bhadrapad Shuddha Chaturthi every year. As per the regional Marathi calendar the deadline cannot be extended any further. 

The lady workers involved in this business cannot be asked to work long hours, especially during night time hence we have to do time-bound work. There is scarcity of skilled workforce in this field and under such circumstances it is very difficult to manage this business.

Mrs.  Minal Lele with her staff

What are some of your other favourite hobbies?

Well, they are travelling, playing carom, listening music and playing with my pet Grecy. 

What are your future plans?

My major aim is to create Eco-friendly Ganesh idols. I wish to develop this industry to percolate it in every segment of society.

Your biggest achievement so far.

The felicitation received from the following dignitaries and organizations: 

Hon. Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister, Govt. of Maharashtra (India) 

The Ministry of Environment, Maharashtra 2015 (India)

The SNDT University (Women’s University) Mumbai (India)

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (India)

Bharatiya Vidyapeeth (India)

Below is some of  the  coverage Mrs. Minal Lele received in national  and local  mainstream media

Mrs. Minal  Lele can be reached at Facebook

First Published: 15-Sep-2018- 04:01