H&M Foundation and Social Alpha in India joined hands to create the nationwide challenge Techtonic – Innovations for Circular Economy in 2020, to curate locally designed, disruptive innovations addressing problems in waste management while also improving the livelihoods of waste pickers. The winners got to join Social Alpha’s program to receive support in their lab to-market-journeys. And the result? Here is the latest news from four of them.
Sunglasses made from packets of chips sold out in a blink of an eye
Ashaya are recycling innovators with a pioneering social-impact-first approach. They have managed to recycle one of the most unrecyclable materials; metalized multi-layered plastic packaging (often used for food and snacks) and turn it into new commercial products, while also employing and upskilling waste pickers throughout their processes. Their first products included a new brand of sunglasses, called Without™. The sunglasses were launched in BETA mode on Feb 16th, 2023, with the goal of selling 500 products in 3 months. Impressively, the product went viral and they sold out their first batch in just 6 days. Having sold close to 1000 products, the BETA mode was closed on March 20th. ”We are now working on upgrading the sunglasses, adding colours and designs and releasing the next version hopefully by June 2023.” says Anish Malpani, Founder of Ashaya. ”We are also exploring other products like lamps and premium furniture, but that’s in the early stages. In the long run, we will hopefully start selling materials B2B – that’s the most viable way of scaling up our enterprise so that more waste can be recycled and more waste pickers can be employed.”
”In the long run, we will hopefully start selling materials B2B – that’s the most viable way of scaling up our enterprise so that more waste can be recycled and more waste pickers can be employed.”Anish Malpani, Founder, Ashaya
Phool’s leather from discarded temple flowers gains traction
Phool (the Hindi word for flower) is an Indian biomaterial company based in Kanpur that has developed an alternative to animal and plastic leather (‘Fleather’) using discarded temple flowers that would otherwise have been thrown into the Ganges river. Simultaneously Phool is creating valuable employment opportunities for a marginalised community, so far employing over 163 female ‘flowercyclers’ from waste picker communities who collect waste flowers. In time, they hope to employ 5,000. A justified ambition, given that they recently partnered with PVH Corporation, the parent company of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, in a pilot to make fleather bags. And already more brands from different industries are showing great interest.
Reti Ecotech are getting ready to hit the market
Old clothes can do a lot of things – being converted into bricks and furniture is one of them! Bengaluru-based start up Reti Ecotech aims to collect and convert end of life-textiles into bricks and panels, thereby redirecting tonnes of waste cloth from landfills. As winners of Techtonic in 2022, Reti Ecotech have now joined Social Alpha’s program, to receive support in their lab-to-market journey. Jahnavi Rao, co-founder explains, We are growing our team and our capacity, working on improving our product and delving into a market strategy. Some interesting pilot projects with potential customers are being are being prepared now. It’s an exciting phase of our journey, and we’re getting to learn a lot.”
”We are growing our team and our capacity, working on improving our product and delving into a market strategy. Some interesting pilot projects with potential customers are being are being prepared now.”Jahnavi Rao, Co-Foundaer, Rei-Ecotech
Padcare scored a blank check on TV show Shark Tank India
Padcare Labs has created an automated hygiene management system that can break down disposed sanitary pads into cellulose and plastic that can then be upcycled into new products. At the same time, they contribute to safeguarding women, changing attitudes around menstrual hygiene, all the while incorporating and employing waste pickers throughout their operations.
Earlier this year, Padcare Founder and CEO Ajinkya Dhariya was one of the contenders in the popular TV show Shark Tank India, where he presented the idea of Padcare to a panel of potential investors. Amazingly, one of the investors, Peyush Bansal, presented Padcare with a blank check, giving the team the opportunity to considerably boost their operations.
Ajinkya Dhariya tells us:
”Post Shark tank, we are receiving a lot of inquiries from all over India, we are now expanding to 4 more cities. We received inquiries from varied strata – Government – Supreme Court of India, Local Municipal Corporations from various cities (Approaching for a city level projects) and various Corporates , Housing Societies and Education Institutes. We have also observed reduced sales cycle time indicating that people are better able to trust the brand. And we have been receiving multiple inquiries from around the globe.”
“Post Shark tank, we are receiving a lot of inquiries from all over India, we are now expanding to 4 more cities. (…) And we have been receiving multiple inquiries from around the globe.”Ajinkya Dhariya, Founder and CEO , Padcare Labs