Idea to manufacture home insulation materials from agriculture by-products

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“People in Nepal give little consideration to the housing quality; they consider it to be luxury” says Gunjan Ghimire, one of the participants of UYC. To change this mindset, Gunjan plans to introduce environmental friendly and affordable insulation made from agriculture waste to provide better room temperature for people both in the city and village areas. 

Read our conversation with him, to know more about his business idea- Chyau.bio

gunjan-ghimire

1. Can you please briefly introduce your idea?
The roof of Nepali traditional houses are made of straw (paral) to trap the heat inside the house and to make the temperature suitable. This, in technical terms, is known as insulation. So insulation materials basically work as a heat trapping element, preventing heat loss during winters and entering of excessive heat from sunlight during the summer. And that is what Chyau.bio is all about.
We decompose and recycle the agricultural product waste to make insulation materials and their derivatives. We have two wings- one for research and one for manufacturing. 

2. How is insulation used by the people?
Most of the modern houses have ACs to adjust the room temperature, which tends to be less energy efficient. Hence to make it energy efficient and reduce its use of electricity, insulation is used in the parts where there is possibility of heat leak. This decreases the amount of electricity consumed by the ACs. Similarly, people in villages cannot afford AC, so they use the natural materials like straw to trap the heat. 

3. What inspired you to come up with this idea?
During my undergraduate, I did research in this area, I designed an HVAC system, which gave me some learning, insights and experiences. Then I also got an opportunity to do research with a professor on Geography where I got to learn what Nepal needs in order to improve and increase its living standard.
After returning back to Nepal, me along with my teammates saw that no matter what, people here in Nepal give less importance to having quality housing due to which the living standard is extremely low.
We started researching more in this area to which we found that our ancestors used straws (paral) to insulate the houses. But with the influence of Westernization that practice became extinct. So, we decided to bring that practice back with a touch of modernization. 

4. Do you have the prototype for your business idea?
Yes we do have a prototype. Actually Sunny and I met accidentally during a bootcamp, who he had hired a person to make a prototype of insulation material using mushrooms. During that time I was here in Nepal studying about insulation and its incorporation. Our goals sort of aligned so we decided to work together and develop the prototype on our own. The prototype we have now is the 11th iteration.  The 1st iteration was made using agricultural waste like straw which was a good insulating material but was highly flammable. Then we started working on the 2nd iteration, where we made the insulation out of mushroom which was both heat and fire resistant. We then started improving and updating our product with every iteration.
And in the 11th iteration, we have finally been able to  develop a fire resistant prototype. But it is not that visually appealing than those available in the market, so we are working on that. 

5. What is your unique selling point?
There are many insulation available in the market but they tend to be expensive. Whereas in our case, our product will sell at around $2 to $3. If  we are able to sell our product at $1 per square feet that would be a good milestone to reach. Also, we are trying to mimic the styrofoam that is available in the  market but our product will be environment friendly with  high heat and fire resistance. So, the cost along with the materials used to make our product, we think will be our USP.  

6. How will you be catering the different income groups?
We are giving major emphasis to product differentiation, so that our product can cater both the city and the village areas. In the case of villages, as per our research there are different ways of incorporating the insulation which has a production cost that is very low making the final product affordable for people in villages. And talking about the city areas, people look for crisp, smooth panels which require a lot of harnessing, so that automatically increases the cost to the extent that is affordable to the people in city areas.
But in terms of heat and fire resistance both the product type will be similar, only the presentation and the exterior will be different. 

7. What are the major challenges  for you?
The agricultural waste which is our main raw material may not be similar all the time. There may be differences in the length, quality and texture which will affect the consistency of our final product. So, ensuring consistency, I think will be one of the challenges for us.
Likewise, there is also difficulty in sourcing materials to continue with the production. One of the major chemicals that we require is isopropyl alcohol which is difficult to get in the market and it is more difficult in present time as it is used to make sanitizers. Also, it’s price is bound to skyrocket in the future.

8. How has your experience been as a participant of UYC bootcamp?
Actually I am not new to the startup ecosystem. I have been actively involved in this area for almost 5 years now participating in startup challenges like UYC. But the faces I saw, the different approaches presented were really refreshing. I got an opportunity to go through the basics all over again. It has definitely made me more confident. I was able to go through the things that I have done throughout my journey as an entrepreneur with each session. So, it was like a nice refresher course for me. 

9. Which session did you like the most? Which session do you think can be added to make the bootcamp more effective?
The investment session I would say was the best one for me because that particular topic is one of the major concerns for all the entrepreneurs. But, since the bootcamp was conducted online, I felt that the interaction between us and the speaker was missing to some extent, which is completely understandable considering the situation we are in. 

10. What were your expectations for the UYC bootcamp? Were those expectations met?
We mainly had two expectations. We wanted face to face interaction with the speakers as the bootcamp was to be held in person but due to the COVID-19 situation that was not possible.
Another expectation that we had was that the bootcamp would be an opportunity for us to meet our potential customers and suppliers, and that did happen. After a few interactions with other participants we came to know that Samsara Creation can be our supplier in future. So, yes that expectation was met and we are really happy about that. 

11. Has your business evolved post bootcamp? If so, how?
As of now we have not kick started our business idea. We are documenting and testing our prototype. So, our process has not changed much but we have been able to develop a plan of what we will be doing post the pandemic. The first thing we have planned is that we will be registering our company, the legal session has really urged us to think about the registration process before starting off with anything. Then we have planned to look for funding from banks and start the production. 

12. Is there any other information you’d want to share with us?
Based on our research we have discovered different spin off products, so in future, if the cost of insulation manufacturing increases then, we might  pause its production for a time being and push to other products which are similar and easier to produce. Because of the current crisis we don’t exactly know how the market will be but we are sure that the agriculture business is going to flourish and we do have one of those products that we want to market.

So, depending on how open people are, we might  evolve into a new business in future. 

To get more information about this idea, please connect with Gunjan Ghimire at echo.ghimire@gmail.com

Interviewed and Article by Trishna Shakya 

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