Hrithik Bansal Manufactures Masks in India
A global pandemic disrupting normal life obviously isn’t ideal, but Hrithik Bansal from Cohort 34 was able to use the disruption as an opportunity to make a difference. He set up a business-to-business mask manufacturing venture called All Time Protection (https://alltimeprotection.com) in India this summer. All Time Protection has supplied over 10,000 masks to businesses around New Delhi over a 3-month period. They offer 100% cotton-based fabric masks, which are sustainable thanks to their ability to withstand multiple washes and be used. They are not only good for the environment but are far more comfortable to wear than the commonly available non-woven surgical masks.
All of this started in May, when Hrithik had to go home to New Delhi, India during the initial coronavirus outbreak. His internship plans had fallen through, unfortunately, because of the pandemic. He decided to start this venture as a way to get some experience. Initially, the motivation for him was to start an entrepreneurial venture that would help him sharpen his skills, specifically in the real-world business environment. However, as he explained, “When I started narrowing down the niche I was going to be focusing on, i.e. masks, and the way I was going to be doing it, i.e. empowering rural women, it became more than just a business opportunity. The biggest incentive for me became the fact that the work I was doing was actually benefiting a community of society, a community which is largely underrepresented, not only in India but also all over the world.”
Given the pandemic was at a peak, and the market validation for masks was positively present, he decided to dive into the world of masks. Initially, the idea was to produce reusable masks and sell directly to consumers. However, after briefly entering the retail space, Hrithik realized it would take a significant investment of time and resources to break through the noise and compete with the pre-established name brands. He instead decided to go with a B2B model, where he would offer customized and reusable cotton masks to businesses directly. The unique value proposition is that instead of having a big manufacturing unit that would take excess amount of monetary resources to set up, his team outsourced it to small units with a handful of tailors all over the national capital region of New Delhi, India.
To actually bring this into execution, he tapped into his network and found a connection who was involved with setting up cottage industries, specifically independent women tailors working from their homes in remote areas to support their families. This gave him access to a spread out web of ‘mini-manufacturing’ plants, or ‘captive-units,’ to get masks manufactured on a per piece basis.
There were a fair share of challenging moments. Initially, due to excess supply in the market, getting through all the noise and actually establishing a name in the market was tough. The competition was fierce as Hrithik was “competing with other industry leaders who were able to offer rock-bottom prices, working with extremely low margins, having their own manufacturing units, or by importing inferior goods from China.” Another challenge he faced was educating the customer about the masks as well as dealing with myths and misconceptions about their effectiveness, as there was a lot of misinformation circulating about them.
Hrithik has had a lot of fun being able to “learn by doing” this summer, as he’s dived into dealing with a lot of people, managing resources, and empathizing with clients. In his own words, “Realizing that what I’m doing is not only helping society by providing sustainable masks, but also empowering a community of people who may have been hit financially by the pandemic the most, gives me a sense of great pleasure and expresses my gratitude towards the hard working humans of society.”
Hrithik was able to leverage the skills he picked up in QUEST course 190H effectively. The class gave him a host of tools which proved very useful as he went about the planning of this venture. Market and financial analysis helped him gauge the market, identify the potential target demographic, and see whether it would actually be financially viable. The presentation tips also helped him a great deal in making the pitch decks of his masks for potential clients.
As for the future, Hrithik thinks this business wouldn’t be feasible for longer than a couple of months until a brand established its majority presence in the market. While there is an opportunity for All Time Protection to do that, Hrithik himself wouldn’t be as heavily involved due to his academic obligations. He’s handed over control to his associates for now. As he says, “For the future, although I don’t see myself manufacturing masks specifically, I’m always happy to keep my options open and welcome any opportunities that may come my way!”