An Interview With Botana Our 2020 First Place and Most Popular Pitch Winner, by B. Fiber

Janani Chandran Elumalai, Saloni Patel – 2021

Stanford Online High School

“Everyone has the ability to think of ideas, but those who make their ideas a reality are true entrepreneurs. The Blue Ocean Challenge guides young people in their entrepreneurial path to forge a mark on the world through their innovative strategy.” – Janani and Saloni

Below is an interview with the Blue Ocean Student Entrepreneur Pitch Competition first-place winner and most popular pitch for 2020. These two students pitched the idea of replacing plastic bottles with containers made from bio-degradable banana stems. Hopefully this pitch inspires other students to compete and offer solutions to current problems.

Why did you enter the contest? What did you hope to accomplish or learn?

Saloni: I entered this competition because I wanted to learn more about entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as get feedback on our idea.
Janani: I first became interested in entrepreneurship from the previous year when I competed in Technovation, and I wanted to learn more about creating an actual product instead of an app, and also how to create a business that could sell this product in a feasible way.

How did you learn about the competition (school or teacher, Internet, recommendation from a friend…)?

We both joined the entrepreneurship club at our school, where everyone signed up for several competitions including the Blue Ocean challenge.

Why this contest and not another one? What appealed to you about this competition?

Saloni: Unlike other competitions, this competition provided guidelines and infographics that really helped with the entire process. This competition was also not just about winning, but also about learning something new about business and entrepreneurship in the process. Plus, unlike many other competitions, the Blue Ocean Competition is student-run, which is really impressive and inspiring.

Janani: I really liked how the Blue Ocean Strategy forces students to think of a completely new idea, something that doesn’t already exist. This is really good for creating innovative ideas that can help the future, and also gets rid of the tough competition within extremely similar products. Also, this competition is very inspiring since it is the largest student-run organization.

How or why did you pick your topic?

When we first started, we researched many different problems in the world and realized that there was a huge problem with the toxic plastic packaging of water around the world. Water bottles are one of those things that are such a normal part of life that we don’t give much thought to them, especially plastic bottles, but they actually have several health and environmental flaws. When we were thinking about possible materials to replace plastic, we remembered from our trips to India that using banana leafs as a plate for eating is a very common tradition. But then as we researched different uses of banana leaves, we realized that banana stem was currently being wasted during the banana production process, leading to increased carbon emissions and adding to greenhouse gases. Discovering both of these pertinent issues, we realized we could create a solution addressing both of them.

Is this a real business that you plan on pursuing?

Yes, we hope to pursue this idea and create a real business. However, we still have a great deal of prototyping to do before we can launch our business. We hope that with our product, we can raise more awareness about plastic usage and greatly reduce plastic bottle consumption around the world.

Do you plan on being an entrepreneur?

Saloni: I am not too sure about what I want to be when I grow up, but being an entrepreneur is definitely one of the things I would love to be.
Janani: Yes, I would love to be an entrepreneur in the future! I’m interested in social innovation as well as medicine, so I would love to create a business that solves issues within the medical field.

What were your favorite learnings from the Blue Ocean concepts?

Although many of the Blue Ocean concepts are valuable entrepreneurship lessons, by using the strategy canvas, we learned how to differentiate ourselves from other competitors in multiple areas that we hadn’t thought of before.

Will you use the fact that you won for college applications or social media purposes (if so, how)?

Yes, we plan on using this for our college applications because this entire process shows our extensive work on a project that we created. For social media, we would like to use social media marketing, at which time showing that we’ve won funding from competitions will show how we are a viable company. However, the biggest advantage to being a winning team is having the networking options and traction for creating our company in the future.

How much time did you spend creating your pitch?

We didn’t really keep track of time, but probably around a month. Even before we began our actual process, we had already been brainstorming ideas that we could use for our pitch, and once we started, we did it in parts: first creating a pitch deck, then writing the script, recording our voice overs, and finally editing the video together.

What was hard?

Overall, the hardest part was probably developing our idea. Even though we had an overview of what our concept was going to be, researching and really refining all the details of our process was definitely time-consuming. However, this part of the process was also one of our most valuable take-aways, since we learnt how to look at a problem from multiple different angles and think of in-depth solutions for each of the challenges that came up.

What was easy?

The easiest part was definitely working and collaborating with each other. Although we have never met in person, our personalities really complimented each other. We are both fun-loving, yet hard-working individuals with our individual strengths, operating on the same wavelength. This meant we could easily build on ideas, or effectively debate and get rid of ideas.

Did you find the fact that this is a virtual and global competition appealing?

The fact that this was a virtual competition was ideal for us since we live in different places and it would have been much more difficult to collaborate with each other on this project if it wasn’t virtual. The global aspect of this competition is also very appealing since we could see how our idea would perform on a global scale as well as discover ideas that our peers from around the world are innovating.

Did your school or teacher encourage you or did you pursue this on your own?

Both of us eagerly joined a club at our school that helped us discover entrepreneurship and the Blue Ocean competition. Our club leader and advisor really supported us on our journey.

What did you learn?

We became competent in several new concepts, such as market analysis, competitive analysis, and financials. We surveyed over 100 people to understand our market and identify our target demographic. We also learnt how to perform an in-depth analysis of our competitors and our place in the industry through research and inquiry. Furthermore, we became proficient in forecasting and estimating market share penetration, cost of building the business, and revenue projection. These skills are especially valuable to us since they are applicable beyond just this competition. Above all, we thoroughly enjoyed this entrepreneurial journey and look forward to further developing our product and learning more about innovation and entrepreneurship in the future.

What will you do with your winnings?

We will be using our winnings to reinvest in our business so that we can access the materials and machines we need to begin prototyping and production.

What would you do differently?

Saloni: I really wish we had an animation software to use for our entire pitch video. Nonetheless, I think we could have worked more on our time management and created a timeline for ourselves.
Janani: Probably plan better…there was definitely a lot of late night panicking when we first started our project, but we eventually created an effective system to assign parts and schedule deadlines. Also, if we had time, I would have liked to have working prototypes in our pitch to further prove our feasibility.

What advice do you have for future participants?

Saloni: You should build a strong, reliable relationship with your partner(s). With deadlines, it is probably not a good idea to frequently get into arguments with your partner(s). Luckily, we had created a great relationship with each other. Also, enjoy the process!
Janani: The entire entrepreneurial process will take a lot of time, so plan it out from at least a few months before. Splitting the submission into multiple smaller parts will make this process a lot less daunting, so assign parts depending on each team member’s strengths, and have deadlines for each part. Also, don’t be afraid to share any ideas/comments with your team! The best way to create new developments is to be completely open and discuss any “crazy” idea that you might have.


“Everyone has the ability to think of ideas, but those who make their ideas a reality are true entrepreneurs. The Blue Ocean Challenge guides young people in their entrepreneurial path to forge a mark on the world through their innovative strategy.” – Janani and Saloni

Register for the competition and get access to the Blue Ocean Student Entrepreneurs Mini-Course. This course will teach you the fundamentals of Blue Ocean Strategy, which is the leading strategy method in the business world today. After completing the course, you will be provided with a valuable certificate showing that you are trained in Blue Ocean concepts.

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