Plant your Air: EBS student fights indoor air pollution with his start-up
EBS students with Jaskirat Singh, Master in Management Student at EBS Business School and co-founder of Plant Your Air (on the right).
At the oldest private business university in Germany, EBS students have been successful all over the world for more than 40 years. Living a start-up mentality, our university is proud of projects such as Lieferando or Fashionette, that were founded in the midst of our Schloss Reichartshausen vineyards.
In this interview we talked with Jaskirat Singh, Master in Management student at EBS Business School and co-founder of Plant Your Air, who is currently working together with several EBS institutions including our Career Services Center, Students Help initiative or with lecturers such as Prof. Karin Kreutzer and Dr. Marcus Kreikebaum. Aiming to establish his sustainable start-up from India, a business project that tackles the problems of indoor air pollution in Germany, Jaskirat is a committed member of the EBS family.
EBS Universität: Could you please describe the idea of Plant Your Air in a few brief words?
We provide natural and sustainable solutions to decrease indoor air pollutants and increase oxygen levels. This improves health and productivity and has a positive impact on the environment as well. The solutions are easy to incorporate and have the added benefit of improving the aesthetics of the indoor space.
EBS Universität: What distinguishes this new market for sustainable products and an environmentally friendly lifestyle?
It is comparatively easy and cheap to make conventional products with plastics and other materials that harm the environment, but it takes much more research and effort to build a sustainable product that doesn’t have any negative side effects. With increasing awareness and choices of products, a consumer wants to buy something that gives them value and is also eco-friendly. This makes the sustainability industry challenging, but also very exciting.
EBS Universität: Could you tell us a little bit more about how you got the idea for your start-up?
I originally come from Delhi which is the most polluted city in the world. Every day more than 80 people die in Delhi as a result of air pollution and 89 % of the inhabitants suffer from health problems caused by bad air quality. One day, some of my friends and I saw the movie Mad Max. It’s about a future where all the resources are destroyed by humans and air quality and life became really bad. Coming back from the movie, we saw a plant nursery that grew snake plants with a sign on the plants that said: “Hi, I am an air purifier”. An idea made a click then, the idea of cleaning air naturally with indoor plants and when we did more research, we came across the study by NASA that shows how plants absorb indoor air pollutants. That’s when we started the company.
EBS Universität: What kind of challenges did you face during your work for Plant your Air?
When people talk about air pollution, they often refer to outdoor air pollution. Media focuses on toxic smoke coming out of chimneys and car exhausts. What people don’t realise is that we spend 90 % of our time indoors and indoor air pollution can be even more dangerous than outdoor air pollution. This lack of awareness is something that caused problems for us. We as a business really need to take into account that these problems are not yet widely known, and creating awareness continues to be a major challenge for us.
EBS Universität: Were you able to gain any support?
When I came to Germany, I talked about the idea with some students and professors and they advised me to talk to the start-up consultant at our University, Alexandra Wagner. She was the one who gave me a lot of confidence and guided me on how to establish a business in Germany. Coming from India, I had no clue about the German market but my experience at the university and regular consulting sessions taught me a great deal. With further exposure to events at EBS Universität and the network provided by them, I was able to enter a founders programme at the Social Impact Labs, an incubator supported by JP Morgan Chase foundation. The EBS community is also amazing as I was able to connect with a Dutch Master student, Jasper Nolles, as well as several German bachelor students and together we formed a small team that believes this concept can work well. Lastly, Students Help initiative on the EBS campus was also a big support as I found motivated volunteers who were willing to help on the project with readings and interviews.
EBS Universität: Which advantages do you appreciate in the German market for start-ups? What are the disadvantages?
During my experience, I have witnessed that the German market is more encouraging to start-ups than the Indian market. People get excited when you speak of new ideas and concepts and appreciate creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Even a lot of big companies support start-ups through various incubators and accelerator programs as they get innovative ideas that can make a difference. When speaking of disadvantages, such an encouraging culture leads to the formation of many companies and increases the competition as well. You really need to compete for an investor with many other great start-ups.
EBS Universität: Do you have any tips for other young entrepreneurs which you would like to share?
Something that I was told really early is that when you plan to start a company, focus on solving a problem. Ever since my bachelor degree, I had an interest in start-ups. I was approached by many fellow students with different start-up ideas but most of them weren’t really solving a problem. Also, when you start looking for solutions, you might not have a perfect idea in the beginning, so don’t be afraid to try new things which you believe can add value. Sometimes you fail, but that teaches you a great deal and if you stay motivated and learn from your mistakes, one day you will find something really close to a perfect solution. That little room for improvement is important to stay hungry and that’s what makes a start-up experience so exciting.
EBS Universität: Thank you very much for the interview!