Profile story: CLP20 global winner Carbon Craft Design

‘Made with carbon emissions’
Carbon Craft Design creates tiles by upcycling carbon emissions

They won third place during our 2020 Global Grand Final. Mumbai based start-up Carbon Craft Design works on upcycling solutions for architects, businesses and consumers. They launched the Carbon Tile this year, as their first product where design meets sustainability. With every Carbon Tile 30,000 litres of air is being purified, by using carbon pollution as a source. To put that into context: One Carbon Tile is equivalent to preventing 30,000 liter of air from being polluted, which is how much one person breathe in a day.

We got on Zoom with founder Tejas Sidnal about their work, their journey and their future plans.

Congratulations on being in the top-3 of our 2020 competition, well done!
“Thank you. We feel really, really proud with our accomplishment. I feel like we are putting India on the map. We never thought we would be in the top-3, the competition in the top16 was fierce.”

Can you tell us a bit more about your business?
“We build products by upcycling carbon emissions, that is our oneliner,” says Tejas. “The carbon is collected from various pyrolysis based factories, and is then used in the tile making process. This helps us lessen carbon emissions through building materials. We work with a 200 year old craft with a community of artisans. We use the existing technology, existing craftsmen and existing skills – the traditional tile making technique – and fuse that with the captured pollution to handcraft various inspiring patterns.”

“We combine sustainability with design to create a scalable business.”

“We also empower unskilled labours through employment to create our products. This creates an opportunity for people in the local Indian communities to become independent and improve their standard of living.”


How did you come up with this idea?
“Four years ago we started doing workshops and in 2018 we had to select an agenda. We were focussing on three themes: clean air, clean water and clean food. As we went deeper into the subject of clean air we realized that the building and infrastructure related industries are responsible for 39% of the energy related carbon emissions, so we as architects and designers are responsible. That is what started our journey to work towards solutions. A first thought was to develop a brick. We soon realized that a brick has no design value, nobody wants to pay for something that is hidden. From that we went on to building façades, but soon discovered not many people were interested in buying a façade. It was not scalable. That’s when we came up with our tile idea where we now combine sustainability with design to create a scalable business.”

“We got excited about ClimateLaunchpad and honestly, I never looked back.”

 How did you come to apply to ClimateLaunchpad?
“At an event we met Pratap Raju, who runs ClimateLaunchpad in India. His pitch was amazing and I had an instant click moment when Pratap said: ‘Think about training, think about learning. You’re at a very initial stage and you need that as solid foundation for yourself.’ That really connected with us as we were experiencing so many challenges but we didn’t have someone to help us take a step back and look at the bigger picture, to focus on what is important. We got excited about ClimateLaunchpad and honestly, I never looked back.”

Did anything change for you, for your idea, for your start-up during ClimateLaunchpad?
“Oh yes, there has been a huge change in the way we now approach our idea as a business. We’ve been changing constantly in this entire process. There are so many questions when you start out as an entrepreneur. Of course, we know our product really well, but we knew little about the business side. We did not have a solid business model, no clear sense of our markets and potential customers. Every time we have a review and we learn something drastically new and fresh, it makes us go back to our desks for four straight days and go intense with it. To package everything into the maximum of nine slides allowed in the pitch deck… that is really a challenge. Even when we ended up in the top-16 during the Global Grand Final, we felt like we needed to adjust and perfect our pitch even more. It was so intense, but we loved it.”

What was the biggest mind shift you experienced during ClimateLaunchpad?
“That is a tough question. So much has happened over these 6 or 8 months during ClimateLaunchpad. We first launched our product with a certain mind set and ClimateLaunchpad shifted all that. Perhaps the biggest change was in recognizing who is our customer. Who is our customer and where is our market? That is what we had to focus on. We had to figure it out, otherwise there is no model. If you don’t know this then you’re playing a blind game.

“Everything is hard when you’re doing start-up.”

Right now we are focusing on India and we decided to split the market. On the one hand we have the luxury customised artisan market with fully hand-crafted tiles. And we decided to set up a more mechanized line for the mainstream market, where we can cut costs in half. This makes it possible to enter another market for the masses and to speed up our scaling process.”

What is the hardest part of doing a start-up?
Tejas  laughs: “Everything is hard when you’re doing start-up. Things can feel like they are falling apart all the time and you’re trying to keep everything afloat. You’re juggling so many balls, staying focused on the right issues is hard. But you know, every day is a new day and it is not going to change until we grow our company bigger. What is also difficult right now is to keep ourselves motivated during the pandemic with everyone working from home. It is a huge challenge working from home for a start-up. Especially since we are a product company, we are very tactile – we need to see and feel the product.”

How was the fully virtual experience that was arranged for ClimateLaunchpad this year?
“Initially it was exhausting. Working many hours on your own on the phone and on the laptop. But we met so many new people online and seeing their work and interactions with the trainers was fantastic. While we were struggling we could see other people pitching on the same problem and that was amazing. We could relate to that like ‘yes, that is exactly my problem!’ That was so valuable.

The best thing about ClimateLaunchpad is how amazingly well it is structured. You have to solve something on one page. That is the best decision ever, to just do this – not do more, not do less – just do this. You are floating when you’re starting a business, you need a bounding box. ClimateLaunchpad offered the perfect setting for us to stay on topic.

We did miss the connection you feel when your physically in the same room, I would’ve loved a hybrid program.  And I definitely would have loved to hug someone when we won 3rd place. Of course I totally understand that is not possible in these times, but being able to bond beyond the digital screen would have been magical. To really share the experience.“

“The best thing about ClimateLaunchpad is how amazingly well it is structured.”

 How would you describe the ClimateLaunchpad journey in a nutshell?
“We got so much energy from participating. It’s just so nice to know that you’re not the only one working on a start-up to fix climate change. I love the community – it’s the best thing that we can have. ClimateLaunchpad is a platform that changed our lives; it made us pivot towards a direction that will take us to the next level.”

What’s next for your business? 
“We are very much looking forward to the Climate-KIC Accelerator. And we have started conversations with real estate brands and architects here in India. We are more than ready and very confident to move forward. “

Where do you want to be in 5 years?
“By then we want to make an entire building out of carbon emissions. We want to build a ‘reverse chimney pavilion’; a chimney that reverses pollution, and beneath it’s an experience pavilion. Once we build that, that will be the day that I cry. We also aim to make sustainability affordable and of course always merge it with design, craftsmanship and local empowerment. Those are the pillars of who and what we are.”

Want to know more? Watch The Global Grand Final pitch of Carbon Craft Design:

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