When an army officer who had been posted in Siachen told IIM Calcutta alumnus Puneet Gupta, who was working with a defence start-up then, that he had once not taken a bath for 90 days, Gupta felt he should find a solution. He explored alternatives and landed on waterless technology. His start-up Clensta International, founded in February 2016, offers bathing products that do not need any water. Both its products, body wash and shampoo, are alcohol, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and gluten free, making them suitable for all skin and hair types.
"Water is only a rinsing mechanism. So the idea is to maintain personal hygiene, without using water. We thought that molecules of dirt, oil and grease can easily be removed without water; when you take a normal bath, 80 per cent of the water doesn't even touch your body," explains Gupta. Along with a team of researchers at IIT Delhi, Gupta developed activated molecules that absorb dirt molecules. "After you massage the product all over your body or scalp, all you have to do is wipe it clean with a tissue or towel," he says, adding that 100 ml of his product saves 350 litres of water.
IIT Delhi has a 5 per cent stake in Clensta for providing research and infrastructure. Gupta bootstrapped his venture with Rs 3.5 crore he collected from friends and family. He raised another Rs 3.5 crore from angel investors in three rounds of investments. Pradeep Gupta, co-founder, Indian Angel Network; Rishabh Mehta, founder & CEO, Locad; Ajai Chowdhry, co-founder, HCL; Jaideep Mehta, CEO, VCCircle; Raman Roy, Chairman, Nasscom; and Bikky Khosla, CEO, tradeindia.com are some of the prominent investors in the start-up. Gupta plans to raise another Rs 30 crore in the next 12 months to invest in capex and scale up globally. He has a revenue target of Rs 40 crore by FY20. Clensta launched its products only in February 2018 so its revenue of Rs 20.36 lakh in FY17 (as per Ministry of Corporate Affairs) don't reflect earnings from sales of products.
Occupying a small office in IIT Delhi's biotech incubation centre, Gupta says he had not realised that there was so much scope for water-less hygiene products, and was focused only on the defence sector. But now he plans to be in a market that encompasses the defence and paramilitary, daily use consumers, hospitals, at-home patients, home healthcare, adventure excursions, railways and long distance travellers. According to Gupta, the market size is Rs 11,000 crore.
Although there aren't any direct competitors, explaining the product to customers - how these are different from dry shampoos and sanitizers - is a challenge, which is why he has adopted a business-to-business (B2B) model. "To create awareness about how we are different was a challenge for us because that needed investment in marketing. Convincing CEOs about the utility of the products via presentations and personal meetings was simpler, so B2B made sense," he says. So far, Gupta has 30 business customers on board, including the Indian Army. Gupta says the company will soon start selling directly to consumers. Clensta's products are available on Government e-Marketplace (GeM). "By April 2019, we are planning to go B2C but immediate plans are B2B. We are in discussions with Decathlon, Apollo Pharmacy, and Future Retail to sell our products. We will also tap the e-commerce space," he says.
Clensta's products are also available in some other countries, through its subsidiary in the Netherlands, Clensta International BV.
The 100 ml bottles of Waterless Body Bath and Waterless Shampoo cost Rs 549 and Rs 499, respectively. Gupta plans to launch the consumer segment at half this price if the government reduces the GST on the products from 18 per cent to 5 per cent. He also plans to launch two more products: a waterless dental solution; and an anti-mosquito waterless shampoo. Increased business will not lead to a compromise in quality, says Gupta. "All our pilot product formulations are prepared in the lab here... under our core team's supervision. We'll continue that," he says.