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Startup Story: How Shashank Nimkar is reducing mining for Natural Resources through recycling post-industrial waste – Earth Tatva

Earth Tatva is a startup that reduces mining for natural resources through recycling post-industrial fired ceramic waste into
Earth Tatva is a startup that reduces mining for natural resources through recycling post-industrial fired ceramic waste into a useable ceramic material.

The Founder

Earth Tatva Founder - Shashank Nimkar
Earth Tatva Founder – Shashank Nimkar

Shashank Nimkar, an animator and industrial designer, is the founder of Earth Tatva. He is basically from Surat, Gujrat, and now settled in Ahmedabad. He has completed his B. Des and M. Des from Symbiosis Institute of Design, Pune, and National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, respectively.

Shashank finds himself more inclined towards working hands-on with materials and exploring new tangible possibilities. In the past, Shashank has worked with wood, acrylic, cardboard, M-Seal, sunboard, and most extensively with paper. Over the years, he has grown to make conscious choices about the materials he chooses to work with for its environmental impact.

Shashank has conferred with numerous national and international coveted awards for his work in the field of animation and product design. It includes Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival and REX Karmaveer Chakra Award. Dozens of reputed media platforms like The Better India and POOL magazine, to name a few, have featured Shashank’s work.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation, London, has recognized Shashank as Circular Design/Economy Pioneer for his work towards recycled ceramics.

Earth Tatva – What’s it about?

Earth Tatva

The team of Earth Tatva works to reduce mining for natural resources by up to 60% by recycling post-industrial fired ceramic waste into a useable ceramic material. The principle of the startup and its archaeology considers that ceramics do not biodegrade for centuries. The team of Earth Tatva aspires to achieve zero-waste manufacturing, adhering to the principles of the circular economy. Essentially, doing more and better with less.

To achieve this, they procure post-industrial fired ceramic waste and use it with some pure clay that acts as a natural binder. In general terms, the team works with mono-material, which one can use for many production cycles without downgrading its quality. On the contrary, it keeps getting better. Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute test their materials. These materials are 35% stronger as per the reports. The team of Earth Tatva has aesthetics at par with traditional ceramic wares.

Check out the company page of Earth Tatva on Hiredd here.

Earth Tatva: Converting a low-value waste to a high value – high-quality material.

Earth Tatva

Earth Tatva can develop any product from the waste material. The team believes that there are nearly no restrictions on what form and scale they can mold their material. They have started with making recycled ceramic tableware as it is the only ceramic product users choose to buy for themselves. These products have close interaction with the user, and they act as talk triggers while hosting guests. These are 100% food-safe, as the team does not use any heavy metals for their glazes.

Earth Tatva

Though the Earth Tatva has started with tableware, the team looks forward to developing architectural applications from this recycled material, which will allow them to put – the otherwise considered waste appropriately – to productive use, offering better technical advantages. The content is not only more substantial but also uses lesser energy to fire. Thus, supporting green building projects and liberating landfills from decades of industrial production waste.

Earth Tatva

It is a material that Earth Tatva would like to offer to other industries and studios, with the help of which they can continue making their beautiful products for their customers. It would also allow the startup to collectively reduce mining for natural resources without making much change in their operations, reducing the industry’s overall material & energy consumption.

Idea and Inspiration Behind Earth Tatva

During the interview with TimesNext, Shashank told us that the first spark of an urge to work on this subject was ignited in 2017 when he traveled to Khurja, a major ceramic production hub in the country, for an industrial visit organized as a part of his course at NID. There the founder and his friends noticed heaps of rejected ceramic pieces from industries on the roadside. All of them had a chorus thought that they could do something regarding the same.

In 2018, when Shashank was to take up an internship at an organization for his graduation project as a part of his Master’s program at NID, He chose to work on a self-initiated project to do justice to the slow hunch he has been carrying since more than a year.

The founder has always been an avid conserver of resources, whether it’s the materials he is working with or resources like water and electricity. He also has a history of working on projects using waste from other projects. It inspired him to take the opportunity to risk, explore, fail and try again to make the best of his last few months on campus, aiming to bring about something viable by the end of it.

Challenges the Outset Faced

Since ‘Day 1’ of the project, the founder decided that they must be able to use the waste fired ceramic under recurring production cycles. It shouldn’t be a case where the team uses the scrap for one production cycle to make products, and it adds up to the waste for landfilling at the end of its lifecycle. The founder interacted with a lot of people from different professional backgrounds and read through many research papers and books to figure out what binder he could use to give this waste a form, yet be able to use it multiple times after its lifecycle.

Surprisingly, it took Shashank three months to figure that out. He eventually realized through a long chain of interactions and research that he could use clay itself as a natural binder to give form to this waste. Ultimately, becoming the same material after firing, the team is primarily working with a mono-material. In retrospect, the founder finds it quite funny how he couldn’t see a solution that was always in front of him for so long.

Another challenge was the founder’s non-technical background. Developing a material needs sound knowledge of materials, their properties, and technology. With no prior technical knowledge to suffice for this project, the founder took it as an opportunity and challenge to learn more and garner new facts about his area of work. Slowly, as the founder increased his hands-on experience coupled with focused interactions and readings, his horizons of understanding expanded. Shashank believes that it sometimes works as bliss not to know details; it frees you to put the effort in the areas that are untouched by experts. On the outset, when the founder interacted with some senior professionals of the field, they told him not to waste time on this as it was not possible. Luckily, he didn’t know that it is not possible to achieve, so he went ahead and gave it a shot.

Collaboration and Partnership

Earth Tatva has collaborated with a ceramic studio and a ceramic industry to explore possibilities for this material. The experience so far has been quite productive. Over time the founder has realized that most people wish to do something good and innovative; however, due to specific reasons, they are not able to give the maker in them enough time and resources. When someone seeks their help to bring about a positive change, they are more than happy to be given a chance and willingly contribute through whatever resources are available to them at that point.

So many individuals have given their precious time, their highly valued knowledge and expertise gained over many years of practice, their tangible resources and networks for this project and the venture.

First Milestone of Earth Tatva

Earth Tatva Founder - Shashank Nimkar

According to the founder, for any venture to successfully enter and sustain in a market, its innovation is not enough; the change needs customer and market validation. The company’s first milestone was in March 2019, when just after achieving the prototypes of 70% recycled ceramic wares, major digital media platform covered their story. Once the story was released, Earth Tatva received numerous responses asking to buy their products and innovative solutions, these were from individuals & industries/organizations from across the country.

These positive responses gave a strong foundation to the team’s vision and concern for the context on which they were working. An attestation that gave this project and ventured the vigor that every innovation needs in its nascent phase when everything is ambiguous, and the prospects are unclear.

Current Growth Status of Earth Tatva

Earth Tatva bootstrapped itself during its initial R&D and innovation phase. They are now operating as collaboration and equipped with market-ready products. They are also getting inquiries from some of the major brands who are conscious of their carbon footprint, organic sources are now operating and environmentally sound choices. Earth Tatva now look forward to raising seed capital to have their production setup and building an energetic team, while continuing the R&D in-house as well as through collaborations.

Bespoke architectural applications, along with B2B and B2C opportunities, are on the growth trajectory. Earth Tatva is working on adapting to the best course of action as allowed by the market during modern times. So far, all doors remain open, and the choice is about making a sound decision to penetrate and sustain in the market successfully.

The Vision of Earth Tatva

Earth Tatva Vision

The vision of Earth Tatva is to be a flag bearer for propagating the idea of conscious consumerism. Not only to enhance the recognition but also to make such choices accessible to the users. Many untapped materials go waste, and they want to show the world that every trash can be converted into a resource and yet be aesthetically pleasing. Post-industrial ceramic rejects are just the first kind of garbage they have explored so far.

As the startup grows, they want to accept post-consumer waste to have community involvement, which will further enable them to raise awareness and educate residents about waste generation, its management, and conscious buying. They also plan to decentralize these innovations so that through multiple collaborations, they can repurpose the huge waste they encounter currently to a productive application in larger quantities.

Earth Tatva agrees with Alex Steffen when he says,

“There is no such thing as garbage, just useful stuff in the wrong place.”

To check out Earth Tatva’s current jobs and internships on Hiredd, Click here.