Watch: Dubai student turns over 50,000 plastic bags into sneakers – News
The 23-year-old started his business in 2020
Former Dubai student Ashay Bhave has turned over 50,000 plastic bags into sneakers and the 23-year-old couldn’t be happier. Recently, a major school in the city introduced its recycled sneakers into its uniform, in part because it wanted its story to inspire students.
Named Thaely, which means plastic bag in Hindi, the brand is the result of Bhave’s ingenuity and sense of social responsibility. From experimenting with the material on the balcony of his Dubai home to recently obtaining the Golden Visa, Bhave has come a long way and credits the opportunities Dubai has given him for the phenomenal success of his start-up.
Environmentally friendly education
Born and raised in India, environmental responsibility is something that came naturally to Bhave. “My parents never preached about conscience, but it was part of every decision they made,” he said. “Fifteen years ago, when it was still a novelty, my parents invested in solar lamps and heating because they thought it was best for the environment.”
However, it was the work of his mother, a consultant in a waste treatment plant, that marked him the most. “She ran a factory in Mumbai where we lived,” he said. “She has trained many women in separating waste and reusing or recycling it. Organic waste was turned into manure. I could see the impact it had. However, I noticed that no one was recycling plastic. It’s something that stuck in my mind. »
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After school, Bhave decided to study an accessory design course at a fashion institute in New York. Halfway through the 2 year course, he realized it wasn’t for him. “I understood that job opportunities were very limited,” he said. “None of the course alumni were doing anything impressive, so rather than waste time there, I decided to quit.”
However, there was one good thing that came out of this course – he studied shoe design as part of it. As a sneakerhead with a sizable collection, it was something he really loved and stuck with him.
Moving to Dubai
After dropping out of New York University in 2017, Bhave moved to Dubai where her family lived at the time. He enrolled for a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree at Amity University here. “My dad worked in the oil industry here and I wanted to stay with them,” he said. “After I joined university I had a lot of free time so I started trying to create fabric from recycled plastic.”
After much trial and error, he managed to create a plastic material that looked like leather. “It was pretty decent material,” Bhave said. “However, I didn’t do anything with it for over a year. “
That’s when his university announced a startup competition. With the intention of competing, Bhave took her fabric to a local cobbler in India and had the prototype of a sneaker made. When his application won Amity University Dubai’s Eureka startup launch competition in 2019, his life took a turn he never could have foreseen.
“I don’t come from a business background,” he says. “My parents have always been employed. So I would never have imagined starting my own business.
Luckily, one of the contest judges was Matteo Boffa, a Swiss social entrepreneur whose passion for responsible entrepreneurship led him to invest in several companies. Intrigued by the promising business opportunity, he decides to invest in the company.
After winning the competition and securing investments, the true test of Bhave’s mettle was put to the test. It was one thing to make a prototype for a competition, but it was another to make it for mass production.
After months of perfecting the recycling process, Bhave finally made the decision to set up its manufacturing facility in New Delhi where it partnered with a local waste management plant to supply it with the raw materials.
Slowly but surely it perfected the process and was ready to launch in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. However, this came as a blessing in disguise for Bhave as he was now marketing his sneakers to an audience that had become more environmentally conscious post-pandemic.
Currently, the process of making sneakers involves turning plastic bags into fabric using heat and pressure, which is then cut into the desired pattern. Recycled plastic bottles are made into a fabric used for lining, shoe laces, packaging and other parts. The sole of the sneaker is made of recycled rubber. Each pair of Thaely shoes contributes to the recycling of 12 plastic bottles and 10 plastic bags.
Bhave admits that running the business has been very difficult. “There’s a lot of research involved,” he said. “We’re constantly working with distributors to see which colors are most popular and what’s in demand. We have a test space in our factory. Machines can’t always tell you how they will fit, so I wear them, test them and see how they feel. Sometimes when working with a new fabric the colors fade. With others, the colors begin to bleed. So we make new samples every week, fine-tuning the texture, color and size.
The youngster hopes that one day, when he won’t have to get so involved in the day-to-day running of the business, he can return to Dubai and spend some time here. “But for now I’m working hard to make sure Thaely becomes a household name.”