“I strive to strike a balance between aesthetics, production, capacity, reusability and environmental impact.” That’s what Midushi Kochhar says, armed as she is with a master’s degree in Industrial Design from Politecnico di Milano University in Italy.
The idea of recycling waste products took root when she was in her second year at the university, when she was working on an assignment. Since then, she has been on a quest for waste and is happy about the experience. As she puts it, “My educational qualifications encourage me to develop answers.”
The material that Kochhar is particularly proud of is ‘Eggware’, a novel ceramic and concrete-like substance made up of eggshells and an algae-based bio binder. Every year, 1.1 trillion eggs are laid for human use, yet one-third of global food production goes to waste owing to unequal food distribution.
Of course, eggshells are biodegradable, and can be dumped in compost pits, but her idea is to utilise the calcium that the shells contain.
The other product is Hasiroo slippers, which were conceived as a line of elegant and comfortable footwear constructed from the leaf sheaths of the palm tree, which grows mostly in coastal regions. These are very popular these days, says Midushi.
Talking about the procedure, she explains that these ultra-modern slippers are vegan, with no extra water or chemical treatments used in the manufacturing process. The leaves that naturally shed each season are subjected to a bioliquid treatment that softens them and prepares them for a second life.
When asked about the hurdles she faced in her journey, Kochhar says, “Sourcing the raw materials for my products was the biggest problem I faced when I was making small batches. Getting eggshells was not easy.”
She started by gathering shells from her kitchen and neighbourhood, but as the requirements grew, she asked cafes in her locality. “Sometimes they would help. Sometimes things would be difficult because of the lack of a proper channel, but now we are associated with a local authority”, she says.
All set up
Kochhar’s company is called Ylem. Based in Okhla, it is a research and design practice that focuses on building products with sustainable life-cycles and value chains.
The eggware pieces are a customised premium product meant for décor, produced in batches of 20-30 orders and cost up to Rs 500-1,000. The one-of-a-kind pieces have found customers in China and Milan.
Kochhar asserts, “Our country has an abundance of garbage that can be used properly, but no one comes forward to transform it into something beneficial.”
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, she says. ” I strive to strike a balance between aesthetics, production, capacity, reusability, and environmental impact.”
The company is thriving. “We only started four months ago and are now selling over 300 products each month, which is incredible. We have a staff of five employees and are looking forward to growing”, Kochhar states.
In this short span of time, her products have been exhibited at CIFF- China. The most recent display was an exhibit called ‘Surface Spotlight Live’ organized by ColourHive at the Surface Design Show 2022 held at the Business Design Centre, London and the International Furniture Fair at Canton Fair Complex, Guangzhou.
Kochhar is grateful to be surrounded by friends and family who are quite encouraging. “I like to show people my items and ask them what they’re made of. They’re always startled when I tell them it’s all manufactured from waste.”
She adds, “The people from whom she obtains raw materials advise me on how these things might be used to their greatest capacity”, which has been quite useful.
In terms of production and practicality, her mother looks after it because she has worked in a related sector. “I want to devote more of my time to research and development. Our company has gone online, and we’re growing extraordinarily”, Kochhar concludes.
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