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‘We aim to disrupt the biotechnology landscape with out out-of-the-box and innovative product line’

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While promoting hygiene through its products made up of waterless technology, Clensta International has created the first line of defence via shielding human beings from infection of viruses and bacteria, informs Dr Puneet Gupta, Founder and CEO, Clensta International, to Viveka RoyChowdhury

What is the impact of waterless technolgy on sanitation in the public health and sanitation sphere, against the backdrop of the coronavirus infection, which has been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO)?

To minimise the chances of infection and disease and thereby save many lives, we have developed the next generation tech-powered products which directly impact the common population. Besides promoting hygiene, they are also useful in inculcating a behavioural change towards the protection of the environment. This is in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

As prevention is always better than cure, our products create the first line of defence via shielding human beings from infection of viruses and bacteria. Over the years, Clensta has been a driver of change to help and protect our loved ones by providing instant hygiene to anyone, anywhere and anytime.0 Hence, we conducted research to understand the new cleanliness regime and mindset. Interestingly, the findings reveal that 70 per cent of mothers believe cleaning is equivalent to germ-free. This waterless hand rub is an ideal offering to ensure cleanliness and underscores our commitment to maintaining a germ-free environment.

Why did you choose to focus on waterless technology for your entrepreneurial journey?

Of late, sustainability has become a new dimension for companies. There has been an emergence of startups working in the area of climate change mitigation and environmental protection.  After working closely with the defence personnel, I gained an insight into their challenges. The challenge of not bathing for days, while on duty during extreme weather conditions at locations such as Siachin, Kargil or Drass motivated me towards developing waterless technology products leading to the establishment of Clensta International.

What are the important milestones in this entrepreneurial journey?

The year 2017 marked Clensta’s association with IIT Delhi as our research and development centre. This was instrumental in not only providing R&D support, but it also served as a platform for new startups to implement innovative ideas. Another milestone was raising seed and pre-series A fund from Indian Angle Network and notable alumni of IIT Delhi. Clensta International has also received a grant from Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) under BIG Scheme to scale up innovation.

We have also received an appreciation from the President of India Ram Nath Kovind, which boosted the motivation of the entire team. The overwhelming response towards the product truly indicates that people are increasingly becoming conscious of the need to protect the environment and are embracing innovation.

Are there similar products in other geographies?

Currently, there is no company working in the domain of waterless FMCG or personal hygiene space in India as extensively as we are. Hence, it can be said that ours is a one-of-a-kind concept of waterless hygiene products. Though some companies have launched waterless shampoo, we are perhaps the only organisation having waterless technology as the core idea.

What have been the sales and marketing strategies, the sales channels employed?

The marketing strategy plays an instrumental role in gaining a sustainable competitive advantage for the company. We follow a B2B sales channel wherein the product is sold via a distribution network. We deploy the right mix of channels and possess a team with in-depth expertise in healthcare marketing. Their expertise is also instilling a behavioural change towards the innovations. Of late, we have been leveraging digital marketing tools extensively, including social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with our target audience.

Which are the sectors that are being tapped?

Clensta International aims to promote personal hygiene while protecting the environment. The issue is largely unaddressed, especially in rural areas and urban slums. The water resources face unprecedented threat worldwide. Around 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and 4.2 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. Hence, there is an urgent need to scale up innovation geared towards promoting efficiency in water use. If we were to talk about the healthcare sector, a patient undergoing surgery or a bed-ridden person may not bathe for days and survives in unhygienic conditions. Similarly, there is immense potential in the tourism sector as waterless products are handy for travellers. In the defence sector, soldiers deployed in extreme weather conditions such as Siachen does not have access to proper bathing facilities. Adventure enthusiasts and mountaineers too face this issue of poor hygiene. Hence, our products are relevant not only for healthcare, but also for travel and defence sectors.

How are these products being positioned to hospitals and clinics?

Clensta International is working on developing an innovative healthcare product line. Its current products – waterless body bath and waterless shampoo cater to the home healthcare and hospital segments. Maintaining hygiene is of utmost importance for patients, especially those in critical situations to minimise the chances of any infection. It is here that our waterless technology comes to the rescue and provides the first line of defence against viruses and bacteria.

It is also noteworthy that alternative means of bathing such as sponging and wet towel bathing increase the chances of microbial load and transfer of bacteria and other viruses to the human body. Thus, our waterless technology comprising a simple formulation that is free of alcohol, SLS and any other harmful ingredients, is useful for maintaining basic hygiene and cleanliness. The products can be directly applied to hair and body, massaged and then can be dried off using a towel. These remove dirt, oil and grease completely. Thus, our innovative healthcare solution enables convenient, on-the-go and quick access to hygiene.

 Have there been any studies done to prove that the use of such products decreases the incidence of hospital-acquired infection (HAI), also known as nosocomial infections?

Our product- Clensta Waterless Body Bath is anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and has been approved by the FDA as well as tested dermatologically. All products are being extensively used in defence, hospital and healthcare institutions. The product has also been put at trial at Madras Medical College, Multi- Super Specialty Hospital Tamil Nadu, SRM Institute of Medical Sciences and Indian Navy for antimicrobial testing.

How affordable are such products, given India’s disease burden due to infectious diseases?

Clensta International is continuously striving to make its products affordable through government support. Our products have been deemed for an ‘essential use’ for the Indian Navy and will soon be a necessity for the Indian Army. We are making efforts to facilitate the availability of our products to the underprivileged section of the society through our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative and by joining hands with various governmental institutes and hospitals. Our core idea to disseminate awareness on personal hygiene while protecting the environment is also being encouraged through our marketing strategy and social media awareness campaigns. With our CSR initiative, we are also educating children in rural areas on the significance of maintaining basic hygiene.

As a start-up, what are the policies and regulations which can spur further innovation?

It is commendable that the Indian government has undertaken various initiatives such as Start-up India, Skill India, etc to spur innovation and catalyse entrepreneurship.  However, there is a scope of improvement in our existing intellectual property policy framework when it comes to addressing the issue of patent protection. Surely, in comparison to before, multiple processes have been implemented to ease the fund and grant approvals.  Moreover, now, we could look forward to expediting the process of granting permissions by instituting a single-window clearance mechanism. Yet, the most daunting challenge ahead for start-ups is to minimise the go-to-market time for products and to attain a sustainable competitive advantage globally.

What are your plans for future products, overseas sales, etc.?

Our focus is to penetrate deeper into the Indian market and expand ourselves in tier II- and tier-III cities. We envision to establish ourselves as a leading player in the B2B space while exploring the possibilities of establishing ourselves in the B2C market as well. Expanding our footprints internationally is on the cards. We have already set up global operations with a subsidiary in The Netherlands and are further exploring business opportunities in Africa, Asia, the European Union, North America as well as South America. We aim to disrupt the biotechnology landscape with out of -the-box and innovative product line. We will be soon foraying into the homecare segment in an endeavour to provide sustainable solutions to Indian households while simultaneously reducing the consumption of plastic.

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