If not for despair, what else would a new entrepreneur feel when the country goes into complete lockdown just a few months after she starts her company? Dr. Anasuya Roy, founder of Nanoafe Solutions had just brought together an incredible idea of incorporating nanotechnology for safe drinking water solutions. Her antimicrobial water-bottles that purify water of any kind of bacteria and virus within just 30 minutes were slowly picking up demand. But now what?
For an entrepreneur like Anasuya, energetic and ‘crazy’ as she calls herself, lying low was not an option. And that’s exactly why she was able to identify a problem where she could make a tremendous contribution. She was keenly watching how the pandemic crisis was unfolding and realised that there was a severe shortage of good quality face masks. With her experience as a PhD in the field of nanocomposites and antimicrobials, she knew that the masks that were sold in the market were not meeting the purpose nor were the use and throw masks a solution. She decided that this is a problem that her start-up will take up on war footing and solve – face masks that filter out viruses and bacteria, that are washable up to 50 times, and that would fit every face type. An ultramarathon was just about to begin.
Anasuya’s six-member team scrambled together to design the mask with an antiviral shield that can neutralize any virus trapped on the mask. While the team operates out of Delhi, the cloth material to stitch the masks were available in Surat, Gujarat. They had to apply for special permissions to transport the material as an essential good. The manufacturer they found was located in Noida, in Uttar Pradesh. Since the borders between all states were closed, they couldn’t find a way to co-ordinate the production. Anasuya found herself travelling to the border between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh multiple times to check the samples.
Next, you need people to stitch the masks. There was no way they could find skilled tailors in Delhi NCR as all labourers were migrating to their hometowns to avoid the pandemic. Anasuya and her team literally walked into communities and requested people with tailoring skills to come forward and join their effort. Thankfully, people joined hands. With all the social distancing protocols in place, the sewing machines started spinning for two 12-hour shifts in a day. The first set of Nanosafe masks went into the market in just 15 days!
Not a single advertisement was given; just a press release from IIT Delhi, where her company is incubated, and word of mouth through social media. The demand swelled so much that they were producing 10,000 masks in a day.
“It was an experience of a lifetime. Some things would work, some things wouldn’t. Every hour we were doing something new. I learned that challenges bring people together”, says a very satisfied Anasuya.
As a team, Nanosafe was able to take a new idea to fruition within a limited time and with maximum constraints. This boost of confidence is coming in handy for Anasuya and her team as they make a dent in the nanotechnology space.
The majority of the nanomaterials used in paints, polymers, textiles and cosmetics in India are imported, although the skills required to synthesize nanomaterials is available in the country. Nanosafe is changing this scenario. They have replaced imports at several of their clients with their indigenously produced nanomaterials. They’re not just cutting costs, but are scripting their own ‘Made in India’ story.
Nanosafe Solutions was founded in 2019 by Dr. Anasuya Roy and Prof. Mangala Joshi of IIT Delhi. Nanosafe has successfully engineered “Aqcure” brand within 3 months of its incorporation. The current focus is to develop Aqcure homeware range of shaker and fridge bottles and lunchboxes. The antimicrobial technology was developed by Dr. Anasuya Roy as part of her doctoral research program at IIT Delhi with National Award winner in polymer nanocomposites Prof. Mangala Joshi as PhD supervisor who is also the co-founder of the start-up. The idea of antimicrobial containers has won the prestigious Biotechnology Ignition Scheme (BIG) grant with seed funding sponsored by BIRAC, DBT, GoI. It is the first grade of polymer nanocomposite to be commercialised in India. Nanosafe Solutions is a start-up striving to deliver value-added nanotechnology-based products for improving the quality of human life.
Anasuya and her team inspire a thought – Shouldn’t entrepreneurs use constraints as a tool to boost creativity and action?