Nexus-trained Schillings Air offers products and services to eliminate air pollutants, reduce cost and help monitor clean air.
The Schillings Air team at work. Photograph courtesy Ashutosh Ranjan Thakur
Good indoor air quality is fundamental to our well-being. Thus, in today’s world, air purifiers are increasingly becoming essential for ensuring healthier indoor conditions. However, research shows that many off-the-shelf purifiers don’t target all the factors affecting air quality. Schillings Air, a New Delhi-based start-up that offers custom air purification, air filtering and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) solutions, focuses on eliminating different kinds of airborne pollutants.
Excerpts from an interview with Ashutosh Ranjan Thakur, co-founder of Schillings Air and Nexus Incubator program alumnus, about launching a start-up in the public health sector.
How did Schillings Air begin?
After returning to New Delhi from a work assignment in Sikkim, I had great difficulty breathing and talking for more than three months. I was suffering from acute bronchitis, and medicine was only of so much help. I did some research on the Internet, and learned more about India’s air pollution problem and its effects.
This turned out to be life-changing because, with a few other co-founders, I launched one of India’s most affordable air purifiers, backed with sufficient data and proof to confirm that the solution worked. Schillings Air was launched in November 2018. After doing sales of more than $1 million in India, we targeted a new air purification solution for large commercial spaces. We designed a system that, when installed in the central cooling area of a building, provides World Health Organization (WHO)-level purification to the entire space. This design also requires zero annual maintenance, offers 50 percent reduced overall cost and needs only one annual filter replacement. On top of that, all components are completely made in India.
What broad future goals do you have for Schillings Air?
Schillings Air is on the path to develop and deliver more affordable, easily maintained, innovative and essential products related to air purification. Every day, doing something that has never been done before is a challenge, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Recently, we have been selected by NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies) for incubation.
What were some of your biggest takeaways from working with the Nexus Incubator start-up hub at the American Center New Delhi?
One of my takeaways was the realization that innovation brings its own arrogance—the feeling that we’re owed gratitude for developing something so helpful. However, we owe to society for providing us the platform to innovate and develop products to bridge the gaps.
During the Nexus program, it became clear that the presentation of an innovation is as important as the product itself. If people don’t understand it, they’ll never put their faith in it. It is the duty of innovators and founders to impart clear and precise knowledge to customers about their products. The job is not complete at the engineering table.
Do you have any advice for those who want to launch entrepreneurial ventures in the public health sector?
India has over a billion people, and the role of public welfare shouldn’t be left only to the government. There are various gaps at multiple levels in the public health space that are waiting to be filled. However, the diversity in the population and geography isn’t going to make that job easy.
Without being disheartened, we should learn from the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies that are able to take their products to every nook and corner of this country. And, be unafraid to use business skills to overcome the challenges.
Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.