Mumbai grads turn college trip into hemp textiles startup


In India, graduates of the University of Mumbai are seeing traction for their hemp-based fabric startup.

Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO), founded in 2012,  has raised close to Rs 6,500,000 in a seed round from investors including Tata Sons former chairman Ratan Tata and Google India managing director Rajan Anandan.

The students originally got the idea for BOHECO while on a 2010 college trip to Australia, where they learned about hemp fibers’ many uses, including textiles, oil, milk, medicines, flour, and biodegradable plastics.

The young business had to walk a delicate line, however, given India’s negative attitudes toward hemp’s psychotropic cousin, marijuana.  “We were wary of an activist kind of approach to obtain industrial rights from the government, lest it be met with rejection and negative promotion,” says Yash Kotak, Director at Boheco.

Uttarakhand’s government allows farmers to grow hemp, but seeds were not readily available, Kotak adds. By partnering with India’s R&D body, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Boheco was able to develop farm-ready seeds. “Research is still ongoing (with CSIR) and we are currently resorting to collecting naturally available plants,” says Jahan Peston Jamas, cofounder and director of strategy and collaborations.

The company has found acceptance in the market, however, with textile brands such as Arvind Mills and Supertex Industries buying their product.