Letter #12: A Dreamy Scary Trip

Letter #12: A Dreamy Scary Trip

Dear Friend of Ashaya,

It has been an INTENSE three months.

I have been stressed out – a little down and a little drained, with my tank of energy craving some sort of re-fuelling.

But then, last week, I got a chance to reflect on everything we have managed to pull off in the past three months, and I’m like, why the stress?

We’ve managed to close a pre-seed bridge round with the right set of investors, without compromising on any of our core values that have impact at its heart. It still wasn’t fun, and the bureaucracy of closing this convertible instrument is driving me up the walls of hell, but it’s still a great problem to have.

We’ve now formalized 8 former waste-pickers / informal workers – 6 full-time and 2 part-time, four of whom were converted from part-time to full-time. Now that we have some traction and some funding, we’ve had the confidence to offer full-time positions to these optimizers – we, as an organization, are here to stay.

We were flown to Stockholm by the H&M Foundation (and Social Alpha) to present our technology at their biggest annual event. I wasn’t sure how much fuss we would get in a world that was a lot more progressive when it came to sustainability, but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, external validation seems needy from an individual perspective, but it is empowering for an organisation.

We now have the blueprints for our first pilot plant from our Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) partners right down the road. It’s surreal seeing something that started off in a round-bottom flask with 10 grams of a Lays chips packet, now being drawn out into fully sophisticated Piping and Instruments Diagrams (P&IDs) for a 100kg/day MLP recycling plant that no one’s done before.

We have new designs in the pipeline for our next line of sunglasses, some of which are interesting to say the least. We have also upgraded our mould designs that should increase the speed of manufacturing and the quality of our finish. We have also been semi-bullied into doing some jewellery, and our lamp design is almost there.

We have also won some awards, added some office space to accommodate for all the bulging as we grow into a team of 17 folks, mapped out our strategic plan for the next three years with renewed conviction and even gotten a pair of shades over to Bachchan Junior.

Abhishek Bacchan with WITHOUT Sunglass


It’s been a great three months, and out of a hundred things, 95 have been good. So, sometimes, I don’t understand why I stress myself out when most of our problems are great problems to have.

But the details matter. That’s where real progress lies.

Our second “upgraded” version of the sunglasses turned out to be worse than the original – we fixed a couple of things, and then unintentionally downgraded a couple of things, so much so that I’m a little embarrassed. We are now working on re-fixing all that.

All our formalized former waste pickers now have health insurance, but they don’t know how to use it. Some of them have ayurvedic or homeopathic doctors that they go to, who are rarely covered. It turns out that it’s not just about getting health insurance for our former waste-pickers, it’s also about showing them how to use it. And we are just getting started.

We don’t do provident fund contributions for them either, and I’m not sure if that’s right or wrong? Money in hand for them right now might be worth more than more money much later. When we ask them what they want, it’s generally a confused look – some combination of what is this, and I guess it’s good?

We are also working on an upgraded version of the material – better properties, greener additives. And we’ve made some leaps that are exciting, but we are still not there. That last 5-10% is always tough.

And simultaneously, all the irrelevant noise around us only seems to be increasing, as we try to stay true to our signal.

So this dreamy, scary trip continues to confound.

Manisha, our new Director of Growth, in her true biz-devy style, told me that these letters are cool and all, but maybe we should add a “how-you-can-support-us” bit at the end? Good idea, I said, but I don’t want to bastardize these letters? Maybe it won’t? Either way, worth experimenting.

So, we could you use some support here if you think that’s worth your while:

  • We are looking for fellow direct-to-consumer brands who might be interested in incorporating our material into their product. Know anyone?
  • We are thinking of trying international markets, starting first with good old Dubai. Any leads would be welcome.
  • We are looking for 5k-10k sqft of space here in MIDC, Bhosari in Pune. If you know anyone who knows anyone who can help, that would be sweet.
  • We are also hiring for a Content Creator.
  • And we are always looking for materials science guidance on the finishing and final quality of our material, in case you or someone you know is an expert in the science of plastics and polymers.

Yes, do let me know if you think those support requests are burdening the sanctity of these letters – I’ll let Manisha know :).



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