Pivot and Persist: How Pune-based startup PadCare Labs is using UV technology to combat coronavirus
The COVID-19 outbreak has created a demand for disinfection services. A report by 6W Research, a Delhi-based market research company, reveals that the Indian surface disinfectant market is expected to register high growth during 2020-2026 owing to the increased demand for the disinfection services amid the pandemic.
At a time of unprecedented global health crisis, several entrepreneurs have been focusing on providing disinfection services, which have become the need of the hour, as the country opens up after observing an extended lockdown. Pune-based PadCare Labs is one such business which is helping people fight the infectious virus through its UV disinfection technology.
Credit: Ajinkya Dhariya, Founder, PadCare Labs
Founded in 2018 by Ajinkya Dhariya, PadCare is aimed at providing menstrual waste management services. The startup’s core products SANECO and UVECO have been designed to ensure proper disposal of sanitary napkins.
However, with the emergence of COVID-19, the startup changed its business model and developed two products, namely UVSATHI and UVHANDY, to disinfect surface areas and inanimate objects using UV-C technology.
According to Ajinkya, the idea of PadCare is to create a circular economy by converting hazardous sanitary napkin waste into eco-friendly waste, and recycle the residual byproducts of sanitary pads such as paper and plastic pellets for new use.
Speaking with YourStory, Ajinkya says, “Around 12 billion pads are used annually by women. Around 98 percent of the waste ends up in water bodies and landfills, and a single pad takes up to 800 years to decompose. Apart from this, if incinerated, a single pad can release 380 kg carbon in the atmosphere. We are trying to address the gap in menstrual disposal to maintain hygiene and also reduce its adverse impact on the environment.”
PadCare’s B2B product UVECO is a UV-based touchless sanitary pad collection bin which is installed in washrooms. The bin automatically opens its lids when one hovers their hand over its sensor. The collected sanitary napkins are then transferred to the centralised processing unit, SANECO, which disinfects and segregates the waste.
According to Ajinkya, the Founder and CEO, the company conducted five pilot runs of the products for six to seven months across Pune, and claims to have served over 350 women daily. He says the startup was on its way to commercially implement the products, however, the plans got stalled after the pandemic broke out and amid the subsequent lockdown.
“We started getting calls from doctors who needed something devised for decontamination of surfaces at the ward level and of the N95 masks. We started working on it and developed a basic prototype within a week since we had basic resources available as we have been working with UV devices,” Ajinkya adds.
The startup developed two products — UVSATHI and UVHANDY. According to the founder, UVSATHI is a remote-controlled air and surface disinfection unit. Certified by NABL-accredited lab, the product can decontaminate areas from 50-500 sq ft. Currently, the product is being tested at ICMR labs specifically for its effect on COVID-19.
“The products can be used to disinfect hospital wards, school classrooms, and offices, and the UV-C unit will destroy all kinds of pathogens. The products have different variants depending on the surface area it can decontaminate. The machine just needs to be kept in the room and switched on,” the founder says.
He also mentioned that human beings cannot be in the room during the decontamination process, and thus the machine has been designed to start 30 seconds after it is switched on for people to leave the room.
“The product comes with a sound buzzer and a detection sensor. It will automatically switch itself off in case it detects any human presence. Apart from this, UVSATHI can also be controlled using a remote so one can switch it off via remote from a safe distance,” he adds.
UVHANDY, on the other hand, is a handheld and portable sanitisation system for decontamination of inanimate surfaces. The product can be used to disinfect surfaces such as office desks, door handles, parcels, food deliveries, and bags, among others. Both the products can also sanitise and disinfect N-95 masks for reuse.
Explaining the technology, the founder said that the UV-C light can deactivate bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens by attacking their DNA molecules, causing them to lose their reproductive capability and turn them inactive.
Business and more
The startup follows the B2B model and claims to have deployed more than 50 units of the products across Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi. Businesses can get UVHANDY for Rs 7,500, and UVSATHI for Rs 25,000 to 85,000, depending on the area of the room that needs to be disinfected.
Ajinkya mentioned that UVSATHI is currently being used by the Indian Air Force to disinfect their meeting rooms. Apart from this, the startup has also deployed the products at Sahyadri Hospital, KEM, and at local clinics across Pune.
While Ajinkya declined to reveal the revenue and turnover figures, he said the products are also seeing high demand from businesses across India, as well as from the Gulf and European countries.
“Our immediate goal is to scale up and make both the COVID-19 products available across India and also tap the international markets. To achieve this, we have joined hands with automotive manufacturer Kinetic Engineering Limited for manufacturing and distribution. Currently, the production rate is 10,000 units per week,” Ajinkya says.
Speaking about future plans for SANECO, the startup is currently aimed at getting the needed regulatory approvals and launching the product for deployment across the country.
“PadCare Labs is planning to launch the core sanitary napkin disposal and recycling within the next three months. We are planning to sell 50+ units with the next 12 months which can provide sustainable hygiene and sanitation to minimum 200,000 women and 100+ waste pickers. We have received pre-order from Maharashtra government and other corporate industries for our units,” Ajinkya adds.
Not only PadCare, but several startups are coming up with UV-C innovation for disinfecting surfaces. For instance, Bengaluru-headquartered nanotechnology startupPvt. Ltd developed a product called CoronaOven to disinfect objects such as ecommerce packages, grocery items, milk packets, wallets, electronic gadgets, masks, and gloves, among others. It disinfects these items within 10 minutes via UV-C light.
Meanwhile, Delhi-based Green Grapes Devices has also developed a UV Sterilisation Box to disinfect small-sized daily use items such as cell phones, keys, watches, rings, and masks among others.