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How this startup “Thenga” is upcycling coconut shells into Beautiful Kitchenware | Maria Kuriakose

Maria Kuriakose founder of Thenga

Maria Kuriakose was born and done her schooling from a small town in Kerala. After that she went to Mumbai for her further education in Economics. She also pursued her MBA from Spain. After that, she worked in Mumbai for 4 years in a company and also in a startup.

Maria’s family comprises of her father who is a Mechanical Engineer, her mother, a housewife, elder brother who’s in Germany doing Mechanical Engineering and her elder sister, an Architect working in Bangalore.

Idea of the Startup

Since childhood Maria Kuriakose always wanted to do a startup business of her own, she was always enthusiastic and excited about the product emergence, prices, evolution etc. In her interview she mentioned “After working in Mumbai for 4 years, I was really dying to start my own business, following my passion.” But she was not sure of how really to take the first step, but after working in Mumbai she had some confidence on how business works, how to take things forward etc.

Since she’s from Kerala and Kerala is known as ‘The Land of Coconuts’ and every part of coconut is useful but in Kerala, only Coconut Oil has majorly been produced and all other part of coconut has been regarded as waste and the shell has been burnt. In her sight, more could be done with these products and her main focus was to utilize the waste that coconut oil manufacturing units are producing. This is how the idea emerged when she started experimenting with the things until she found what she really wanted to do.

Thenga Products
Thenga Products

Maria Kuriakose wanted to be the changemaker and nothing specific has drew her to start her own business which has been her dream since a very young age. Since her childhood, making societal changes and working out for social issues has always inspired her so even being an entrepreneur, Maria Kuriakose always wanted to focus on how to help the society and bring out something innovative out of everything she does.

Challenges on the way 

Some of the challenges Maria Kuriakose faced were in respect to the product, since it’s a natural product the size, the shape, everything is unique. But since customers are used to use a uniform set of products, they differentiate the products based on the size and shape it owns. Therefore they found it difficult to accept such variations.

Further challenges she faced were being it a natural product, the situation of its unavailability of the shells, hence they need to stock the shells a long ago in order to avoid the queries further. These are the things Maria need to plan ahead, also the storage area should be dry place therefore at the times of rain, Thenga need to be careful about choosing and protecting the warehouses.


One and a half year, Thenga was bootstrapped. There wasn’t a requirement of huge funding since they were all manmade products. Further, Thenga chose digital marketing and social media to promote the products and from all the profits incurred, startup use to invest on the marketing strategies and purchasing raw materials for the product. After one and a half year, Maria raised funds from her family basically to procure the products in a larger quantity to meet the market needs. Thenga was getting some margins which was used to run the business.

Maria Kuriakose
Thenga Products

Motivation factors

The key factor that keep them working was they were very passionate about the products and they aimed to provide quality product and satisfaction to their customers more than generating profits. Hence she felt that “Profit and success is just a by – product of the efforts we put on the work.”

Also, coconut shell is a very practical material because of its durability, solidity and it does not last very long time unlike glass and plastic products which cause problem in disposing them. So the product is very convenient and eco – friendly in comparison to the other products in the market.

Organization structure

The current structure of their organization is divided into multiple departments; Operations, packaging, marketing and strategy etc. managed by different employees of the organization. Target customers of Thenga are the customers in and outside the India who are passionate about the eco – friendly products. Because of these products being handmade, it takes time to choose and make these products. Their price range varies from INR 300 – 500, which is neither very costly nor very cheap for the middle class.

In rural areas in India, there are availability of the materials for such products whereas outside India, this stands as a totally different concept, the artisans are not available everywhere which makes the requirement of such products more demanding in the urban areas worldwide.

Ongoing decisions

The hardest decision Maria Kuriakose took was to stick with only coconut shell products. Over the time people started demanding different coconut products such as coconut milk, coconut oil etc. which makes it easy to earn money due to the demand it holds but they preferred sticking to their values and continued working on coconut shell products. Hence it made the products totally diligent and innovative among all the products in the market.

“I’m not sure about the formula of success. According to me, every person can create their own meaning and definition of success. Everyone have their own strengths and weaknesses, their ability to work, how they make things happen.” Maria in her interview mentioned.

She’s not a quick learner and she’s not the one to make things happen fast but he holds the clarity of mind. She works slowly and consistently and does not get distracted from her goal. She suggests everyone to understand their strength and weaknesses and start working on them, one should create their own ‘Mantra’ of getting things done.

Suggestions for students

Maria Kuriakose suggests all the college students to try out different things and work towards working an entrepreneur only if they want. For graduated ones, recommends on working it out only if they are very sure of the idea or else getting a job, gaining experience and doing it afterwards because “It’s never too late to start.”

What keeps her motivated is the business idea that makes them make the best out of waste, create value to their customers and promoting and helping artisans in the rural Kerala, making themselves financially independent company. There’s no certain thing that has been her inspiration to and within the entire journey, it was all her need and want to be an entrepreneur, reading out about different entrepreneurs kept her motivated.

Wise men said “You can earn and achieve something only if you start working on it.”

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