Bootstrapped BreatheFresh brings everyday solutions to improve indoor air quality
BreatheFresh is a Make in India startup that manufactures and sells natural indoor air purification solutions.
At a glance:
Founded in: 2017
Where it is based: New Delhi
Founders: Gaurav Arora and Bhawani Bhateja
Sector: Air purification
Problem it solves: Air quality
Come winter and Delhi begins choking, literally. Conversations revolve around the poor air quality, and there seems to be very little one can do to breathe easy. While winters are particularly bad, the air quality in India’s capital city is among the worse in the world.
This was the inspiration for Gaurav Arora and Bhawani Bhateja to start BreatheFresh. The company makes indoor air purification solutions that are natural and chemical free.
The idea for natural and chemical free products came to Gaurav when his child was born three years ago. Like any parent, he wanted a safe and healthy space for his child, and moving out of Delhi for cleaner air was not really the solution.
Gaurav has more than 14 years of experience working in leading IT and technology companies like ADP and NIIT Technologies. He worked in senior managerial roles and leadership positions, which taught him the dynamics of product development.
Bhawani, on the other hand, had started a company called Blossoms while still in college. Its focus was on spreading the idea of gifting decorative plants, instead of bouquets, for special events, and it targeted schools, colleges and corporate houses.
Setting up BreatheFresh
“It sort of became my personal mission to provide safe and healthy air for my family. I did buy electric air purifiers, but was not hugely satisfied due to their non-portability and affordability. I wanted a household product, more like a daily staple, that works without electricity, and is easily affordable. Thus started my research and endeavour for finding the solution, and we came up with BreatheFresh,” says Gaurav.
Gaurav met Bhawani at a business conclave, and the two joined hands to start BreatheFresh. The product they developed was Vayu Natural, a bag made of high-quality charcoal fabric that absorbs harmful pollutants and smoke particles present in the air. It can also absorb bacteria like E. Coli and Staphylococcus Aureus.
Vayu Natural’s activated charcoal absorbs particles like formaldehyde – a harmful gas released by paints and cleaning chemicals – and other pollutants to clean the air. The final layer of activated environment-friendly polyurethane filters holds heavy particles like smoke and other micro-particles.
Setting the manufacturing unit
Since Gaurav and Bhawani started the company with their personal funds, the initial setup was elementary, and they had no machinery, but only an assembly line. Gaurav says there was a small laboratory in-house to do preliminary performance tests, and daily workers were engaged on a need basis to meet demand. To decide on the different products and raw materials that could be used, the duo met with different industry experts and mentors.
“The journey of finding the right vendors was very circuitous and exhausting. The vendors and distributors that we wanted to work with were dealing with large quantities, and our volumes did not interest them. Also, sometimes, the distributors did not have the raw materials that we were looking for, and they directed us to the next contact,” says Gaurav.
It took the team significant time and effort to connect with the right source. They soon began to approach and connect with market leaders, and early inceptors in the space.
Over a period of time, they were able to seek mentorship, and establish contacts to get the right distributors. All of BreatheFresh’s products are manufactured at its unit in South Delhi.
“The manufacturing unit was scaled from a basic setup of three people in a space that was shared with an acquaintance. This helped us significantly reduce our setup cost and we could concentrate on scaling up. Most of our initial work was done with an outsource model to reduce the manufacturing process and yet maintain our quality. It meant lower margins, but helped us focus on sales,” says Gaurav.
All product improvements and addition to the catalogue took place along with the production to meet the running and scaling costs. An in-house lab was setup with meters created with open source electronic prototyping platforms like Arduino for multiple iterations and validations, which were also later confirmed by independent laboratories.
Reducing the R&D and production cost had been of paramount importance during the team’s initial days.
“Our relationship with our suppliers and vendors also had been a stepping stone in our journey. Large suppliers supported our startup mission and agreed to give us small orders with sufficient credit limit, and that turned out to be very supportive for our growth,” explains Gaurav.
The team has had their products tested by ITS Laboratory, Delhi, a NABL-accredited lab. According to the report given by the team, reduction in the air pollution was significant.
Currently, the average order size is Rs 1,200. There is a growing market for air purifiers in India. A TechSci report states the Indian air purifier market will touch $209 million by 2021.
BreatheFresh products are available on Amazon and Flipkart, as well as the BreatheFresh website. The products are priced between Rs 600 to Rs 2,000.
Delhi seems to be a hot-bed for air purification startups these days, with companies like Simply Purify in the space. Also, school children from Noida have invented an air purifier of their own.
Currently bootstrapped, BreatheFresh is looking to add more products in its portfolio. Currently available online, the team is planning to sell through large format retail, health and lifestyle stores soon.