In September 2017, 56-year-old Kaushal Jha, a government employee, was transferred from Bhilai to Delhi. Two months later, he complained about chest pain and was immediately rushed to the hospital. After four days of treatment, Kaushal returned home after learning that severe air pollution took a toll on his health.
His son, Aayush who was working in Bengaluru, flew to Delhi to see his ailing father. “My family members regularly jog, perform exercises and pursue fitness activities. However, air pollution was what affected my father’s lungs. The doctor advised him to stop exercising, buy an air purifier or leave Delhi altogether,” says the 30-year-old.
Aayush adds that as moving out of Delhi was not a practical solution; the family decided to buy an air purifier. But soon, he learned that the amount of indoor pollution could not be mitigated with one air purifier for his three-bedroom hall kitchen (3BHK) flat in Ghaziabad.
This curiosity led him to analyse the functionality of the air purifiers, and his discovery was what moved him to create his own startup venture. “It was funny to know that there was just a fan working as an exhaust to pull in the air from the room. The filter behind it just absorbed the pollutants and released the air back outside,” he adds.
An affordable AC-purifier
Aayush’s mind raced to apply the same air purifier principle for air conditioners. “Air conditioners perform similar tasks as purifiers. So, I thought, what if ACs could clean the air whilst also cooling the room?” he says.
In his quest to innovate and tackle air purification, he found that despite knowing the ill-effects of air pollution, commercial entities refused to invest in clean air technologies. “The main reason was the cost. It would cost Rs 2 crore to purify the air of a 3,00,000 sq foot space. So there was a much-needed demand for an affordable product,” he says and adds, “Also, applying a purifying filter to ACs would increase the effort for the air conditioner to cool the room due to the thickness of the added layer, thus affecting its performance, especially for residential ACs,” he adds.
Aayush then realised that the central cooling air conditioners with powerful machines could work efficiently. “This directed me to enter the B2B (Business-to-Business) market to target malls, multiplex theatres and corporate companies and focus more on centrally cooled ACs. Entering commercial spaces would also mean a bigger impact,” he adds.
A hundred times cheaper solution
Qualified as a lawyer, Aayush had experience working in startups. Thus in 2018, Aayush set up Clairco, an abbreviation of Clean Air Company.
“I spent my savings during the early days of the research and development phase to create a prototype and working model. The startup partnered with a multinational company to access the filters while we focussed on the IoT software. However, the partnership ended in August 2019 because of a pricing issue,” he says.
The entrepreneur says that in May 2019, the company had received initial funding of Rs 50 lakh from AngelList investors. “The funding helped us create filters in-house. The final product was ready in January 2020,” he tells The Better India.
Speaking of the technology involved, he says, they are low-drag nano air filters, which are “a hundred times cheaper” than other air purifying solutions in the market. “For the same 3,00,000 sq feet office space, our filter would cost Rs 3 Lakh. The costs become 100 times cheaper than our competitors as we are retrofitting the filters in existing ACs without affecting their original performance,” he explains, adding that the Air Quality Index (AQI) is maintained at Particulate Matter (PM) 10 and PM 2.5. This, he claims, means that the parts per million (PPM) is always 90 per cent lower than the surrounding area.
Along with affordability, Aayush says to have integrated the measurability element of the air quality with the filters. “Along with affordable solutions, the customers would want to know if the air purifiers work. The air quality can be measured real-time with the help of the IoT (Internet of Things) system that helps to identify exactly when the filters need to be changed,” he adds.
The company’s unique selling point is that if the promised air quality is not achieved, the company doesn’t charge for the said time duration. “We promise clean air, and if we cannot deliver it, we won’t charge for it,” he says.
‘No one should suffer due to the lack of clean air.’
The entrepreneur says the company took off steadily and managed to get clients on board. Speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic, he says, “I am glad to have survived the ongoing economic crisis as I have retained all 11 employees. The COVID-19 pandemic helped in creating awareness about safety and hygiene among people. The crisis made potential clients opt for clean air and helped the business.”
Since June 2020, the company is growing multifold. “We have 30 per cent growth every month and doubling every quarter. The company generates revenues close to Rs 30 Lakh a month with nine clients from malls and office spaces located in Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The technology is helping breathe clean air to about 15 lakh people daily,” he adds.
The founder claims to soon have clients from Pune, Chennai and Mumbai on-board and aim to target Tier-1 cities across India. “Our aim is also to reach the companies in the Middle East and other countries in South East Asia which face similar air pollution problems,” Aayush says.
He believes that clean air is increasingly becoming important, as air pollution has many negative health impacts. “Like my father, I would not want anyone to suffer simply because they don’t have access to clean air,” he concludes.
Edited by Yoshita Rao