[Startup Bharat] How Nashik-based MyssTre is protecting you from air pollution and coronavirus

The startup manufactures and sells nanofiber-based, virus protective, sustainable face masks, and scarves and is helping us fight the coronavirus pandemic.

With the rising number of vehicles and industries, we all are aware of the ever-increasing air pollution and its consequences. According to the World Air Quality Report 2019 compiled by IQAir Air Visual, India housed 21 out of 30 most polluted cities in the world, with the Delhi-NCR region at the fifth position.

Nikita Dattani also realised the menace of air pollution and its related issues getting highlighted in the newspapers regularly. She and her father have dust allergy, for which they always kept hunting for solutions.

Nikita Dattani

“We breathe about 11,000 litres of polluted air that is invisible, but we cannot imagine drinking dirty water and make sure we drink five litres of clean and filtered water, which we can see,” says Nikita.

She, therefore, decided to take an entrepreneurial plunge. Her initial idea was to sell pure air, just like pure water — clear of impurities, viruses, etc. This led to the start of MyssTre in 2019, which manufactures and sells nanofiber-based virus protective sustainable face mask and scarf.

The Nashik-based startup claims its products are about 96 percent efficient — so far the highest efficiency achieved in India.

The beginning

Nikita hails from Malegaon, a small town in Nashik, Maharashtra. Growing up, she learned about her family business, which multiplied over the years, and also drove her to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Finance.

With exposure to the family business, as well as multiple internships over the vacations, Nikita was motivated to start her own venture. She came across the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) and knew that it was a perfect fit to venture into entrepreneurship.

During her second year at EDII, she was inspired by a guest lecture from ATIRA on nanofiber technology and decided to develop Mysstre.

“Making the best product available was an instinct that paid out during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have made sure to deliver every possible order with the greater good in mind, and keeping our MRP intact and not inflating the price, resulting in a 1000X growth in demand. We have been working on it every waking hour, and have our available production capacity booked for the next three months,” says Nikita.

The manufacturing plant of MyssTre is in Malegaon, where Nikita’s family has been living for generations, and also operates a power loom and shirt manufacturing business. Utilising the available resources, Nikita set up MyssTre.

Her startup has eight people in the factory, helping in production, packaging, and in-house logistics. Apart from them, an additional workforce of four people, including Nikita, help manage marketing, PR, and distribution, among others.

The product

The startup manufactures two types of scarfs — a NanoAir rectangular scarf, which costs Rs 225, and a NanoAir triangular scarf that costs Rs 185.

The masks, on the other hand, which are available in yellow and white colours, are priced at Rs 145.

According to the MyssTre team, the polypropylene-based mask comes with a three-folded structure, while the ultra-soft pure cotton scarf is gentle on the skin, providing a comfortable fit. The scarfs, as well as the masks, are made to cover the entire face and head, providing sun and non-oil airborne particles such as dust, bacteria, viruses, and pollen protection.

MyssTre masks

The nanofiber-based cartridge claims to come with 99 percent filtration efficiency that filters 2.5-micron particles/bacteria/viruses, and comes with an adjustable soft nose bridge and velcro.

While most of its clients are local retail outlets and individual traders, the rest of MyssTre’s products is sold online through its website and ecommerce platforms like NetMeds and Amazon under the name of Nano-Air by MyssTre. The company has sold over 75,000 masks and scarves till now.

“The targeted customer-base has always been the individual retail customer, which was difficult to go ahead with, and to assist that, we majorly started with bulk orders for various purposes, ranging from an NGO’s programme to hospital requirement to traders. Currently, we majorly take bulk manufacturing orders for wholesale,” adds Nikita.

Revenue and future plans

According to reports, the global disposable face mask market size was valued at $ 792.4 million in 2019, and is anticipated to witness a CAGR of 5.6 percent growth in the coming years.

MyssTre stands along with other face mask manufacturers such as 3M, Honeywell, and KOWA, who produce the medical N95 masks.

But, according to the founder, the market is filled with very basic masks.

“There are a few companies that provide quality N95 masks, but the majority of the population is unaware of the quality and type of masks they should purchase. MyssTre is extremely careful of its quality check and has masks that last for 30 days, that is, if you buy a Rs 145 mask pack, you get three masks, each costing Rs 48.33. So ideally if you see, it is just Rs 1.55 every day,” she explains.

Nikita adds that MyssTre products are priced low among its competitors.

The biggest challenge for the team, however, was spreading awareness to buy certified N95 masks only, considering the prevailing situation of the coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, the startup is anticipating an annual revenue of over Rs 80 lakh. In the first year, with the help of funding, the startup was able to break even.

MyssTre got its first funding of Rs 40,000, which it won at the Start-A-Thorn competition from the Centre for Innovation Incubation & Entrepreneurship (CIIE), IIM-Ahmedabad, in 2019.

Further, it got a funding of Rs 50,000 from the Student Startup and Innovation Policy (SSIP), Gujarat, which was made available to it at EDII. A few months into operations, an additional investment was made by her family for factory premises, machinery, and working capital.

“This was when the production capacity utilised was just about 30-40 percent. We have grown about 80 times since the COVID-19 pandemic, and expect to maintain the same as there are enormous awareness and demand in the segment today,” adds Nikita.

Further, the startup plans to venture into products with sensor technology that will get all the metrics of what and how an individual breathes, making it an attractive consumer product.

MyssTre wants to achieve this breakthrough by integrating the technology in a daily wear scarf, making it comfortable for the Indian consumer.

It also plans on doubling its production capacity once the lockdown is over. Nikita says, “Additionally, we are in talks with distribution agencies, and are considering proposed international dealerships. This is an effort to make masks manufacturing our cash cow and bringing in related products like oxygen cans too. We are also experimenting with other products that can be made of nanofiber technology.”

Edited by Suman Singh