Delhi-based fitness freak Archit Kashyap is inseparable from Prkruti Lite. At first sight, you would assume it’s an external drive attached to his phone. It is, in fact, the world’s smallest personal air-quality tracker, weighing just 25 grams. Operated with the Prkruti Lite mobile app, the device monitors the level of pollutants in the surrounding air. Kashyap also has a Shellios Clean Air Helmet. It costs Rs 4,500 and uses an air-purifier system attached at the rear, which also has a micro USB charging port. It pulls air through a filter and circulates it in front of the face. A chin curtain stops ingression of polluted air.
“I use my gadgets to monitor the air around me and then decide what to do. I try to adjust my exercise timings accordingly,” says Kashyap. Many like him have been looking for personalised solutions to cope with air pollution. And many of these solutions are coming from over 100 Indian startups in the pollution-reduction segment that have come up in the past five years. Prkruti Lite, for example, was developed by Jal Technologies Private Limited, founded by Alpesh Donga and Vignesh Kaneria in 2015, while Amit Pathak and Mayank Pathak set up the Noida-based Shellios, which developed the helmet that is said to reduce exposure to toxic pollutants by more than 80 per cent.
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“The price of the B2B- Prkruti Pro solution varies between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 5 lakh depending on the parameters that need to be monitored for a client. Individuals can buy Prkruti Lite for Rs 4,200,” says Kaneria. According to market experts, the pollution-reduction industry is worth $15 trillion.
If you are looking for outdoor solutions, there is a whole range of products to choose from. BluSnap2, founded by startup BluArmor and priced at around Rs 1,300, it is a detachable cooler that you can snap on to your helmet for a cool, dust-free ride.
The company claims it can lower temperature by up to 15 per cent and has a 10-hour battery life.
Indoor air can be up to 15 times more polluted than outdoor air. According to Markets Insider, the indoor air-quality monitoring market is in its nascent stage and expected to reach $4.63 billion by 2022. One of the solutions being offered is the Magneto Central Air Cleaner (MCAC) developed by Magneto CleanTech. It is a next-gen air purification system engineered specifically for developing economies like India, and priced economically. Though various elements affect the total cost, it generally comes to around Rs 75 per sq ft. Its operation is based on a patented ‘Trap and Kill’ technology that involves a three-fold process—impingement (trapping of particles up to 10 microns), polarisation (all particulate matter and microbes, including viruses, pass through a layer and get charged and coagulated) and agglomeration (all the charged particles are trapped and killed).
“We engineer and design high-quality solutions with developing nations like India as our focus, and try to make them available at prices that will work here,” says Magneto’s founder and CEO Himanshu Agarwal. “All our products are tested in labs in the US for certifications, and we have invested in R&D and product engineering designs there as well.”
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India’s product-based startup industry in the air pollution segment is witnessing a huge growth. Amida Cleantech, one of the startups, was shortlisted by Paris Metro and its air purification technology is being tested for efficacy at around 300 railway stations across France.
“We were the only Asian company selected for this project,” says MD Siddhart Dixit. “We have also installed our machines in parks and school playgrounds. It’s a filter-less technology that enables us to treat carcinogenic gases, virus, bacteria and other microbial particles.”
The startup industry feels India is a low-cost market in terms of healthcare costs—people here look less at preventive healthcare costs and more at reactive costs. It’s only now that the impact of air pollution is being more widely understood, giving rise to a demand for efficient and quality solutions. “Startups are coming up with really good solutions and it’s a promising field. With people becoming more aware about air pollution, my personal betting on these startups is worth huge profits,” says a venture capitalist, adding India’s startup ecosystem is exploring this segment as a big potential for both products and services.
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The startup industry suggests public awareness and willingness to spend on the solutions will help to ease the problem. For example, as diesel generators—a major contributor of PM 2.5—are used almost everywhere for power backup, Gurgaon-based ChakrShield has founded the world’s first retro-fit emission control device for diesel generators, which can capture over 90 per cent of particulate matter emissions. The company filed for a patent in January 2016.
There’s also business potential in pollution data. Started by three friends, one of whom is a data scientist, Bangalore-based startup Ambee aims to make hyperlocal air-quality data accessible to developers, consumers, health researchers, and insurance, pharmaceutical and media companies. “Our vision is to make Ambee a complete environment intelligence company,” says co-founder Akshay Joshi.