March 16, 2024 FDCI

Anish Malpani CDC winner tells us his journey from being a finance honcho in the US to recycling chip wrappers into chic eyewear, as he hopes to build a waste-free world where you wear his “Without” sunnies sans any guilt.

Asmita Aggarwal

Both his parents are doctors and till the age of 9, Anish Malpani lived in Aurangabad, before the family moved to Dubai and that’s where he stayed till he was 18 years old. Under graduation took him to the US, years later he left his “boring” finance job to come back to India. He admits he had everything—good money, no debts, youngest director of a US firm, but he did not want to make the rich richer. “I felt really down and wanted to address real social and environmental issues, and my goal was to solve them,” says Anish, who won the Circular Design Challenge 2023 and shiwcased his line at the LFW X FDCI 2024.

When Anish came to India he wanted to learn, as he had stayed in New York most of his life, and spent time in Nairobi and Guatemala to understand recycling problems. “I wanted to research the impact of waste management, after all there are 1.5 million rag pickers in our country and not even half of the waste we produce is recycled as we don’t realise, the material has value,” says Anish, who adds that you can create high quality products by recycling.

He decided to foray into eyewear by recycling chip wrappers, to make it both fashionable and cool above all sustainable, but he confesses “fashion” happened unintentionally. “We are using the market to maximise the impact and to empower waste pickers,” he says. The challenge with recycling this kind of plastic is that it is multilayered, with a combination of various types of materials in it which makes it hard to recycle as it is not uniform (aluminium to paper et al). And only one per cent of this wrapper waste is recycled globally. “You have many different types of plastic and the most recycled is bottles, almost 90 per cent,” explains Anish.

The chip wrappers are a bigger problem, and he operates on a small scale from Pune, right now. Many laughed and mocked him when he started, saying things like “You won’t be able to make this a business and why are you doing this? But he stuck to his gut feeling that and continued this uphill task winning a spot even on Shark Tank India.

He chose to recycle wrappers after checking almost 400 products, and came down to 70 parameters, after thorough searches, eyewear scored high and he wanted to show the mechanical qualities of the material when recycling. “I wanted to replace virgin plastic, and Ashaya or “purpose”, the company hopes to achieve that,” he adds. Though the eyewear is sold under the label “Without” meaning without fear, anxiety, and guilt of using plastic and destroying the environment. “Our eyewear is 100 percent recycled and I feel proud I could achieve this, build a world without waste,” he adds, saying the eyewear is priced between Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,500.

All the designing is done in-house by young students and even though no one studied chemical engineering, yet they manage to recycle the wrappers and create products that are appreciated more outside India, even though domestically there is a segment which is conscious about what and where their products are coming from. “We have made a conceptual brand and it is new-age. The focus will now be also on jewellery and maybe footwear in the future,” he concludes.

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Fashion Design Council of India