“In college, me and my 2 best friends dreamed of just one thing–making it big. And when I say big, I mean getting those big bucks. At the time, Instagram was the new thing. Every time we saw a motivational quote with a man in a suit, standing next to his Rolls Royce, we’d get fired up and talk about our start-up ideas. DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street was our idol! when you’re young and impressionable, just one event can change your life. For us, it was the 2015 Chennai floods.
Our city drowned; the floods swept away homes and destroyed lives. Chennai didn’t look like itself anymore. Us students decided to step out and help. Waist deep in sewage water, we collected tonnes of plastic; 200 people and an entire day later, we’d still only cleaned up half the vicinity. Having been skin-to-skin with waste all day, the reality of our pollution levels hit us–our world had become a product of plastic. All this while we’d thought about profits whilst leaving the most important ‘P’ out–our Planet; our home. This time, we were fired up to make a change. After, we couldn’t stop talking about sustainable start-up ideas.
We brainstormed for a year, experimented, and failed, until we realized our answer lay in the floods–toothbrushes made up the 2nd highest amount of waste collected that day! It may seem small, but a simple plastic toothbrush poses a bigger problem than we realize; every year toothbrushes add 1.3 billion pounds of plastic waste and take over 400 years to decompose!
So, we set out to make ‘brushing’ sustainable. For 2 weeks, I brushed 8 times a day with different products. Finally we settled on Bamboo–it was obtainable and biodegradable. We tried to raise funding, but investors didn’t like that we measured our growth by environmental impact; they were only interested in profits. So, we hustled to make it work–with our savings from internships and the help of friends and family we began. From building the first prototype, to packaging each brush, the 3 of us did everything out of a small, dusty basement.
Finally, in 2018 we launched ‘Terrabrush’. The response was overwhelming–We made 10,000 sales in the first month, and tripled sales by the 3rd month, but our biggest win was that we’d saved the planet from 27 tonnes of plastic! Our dreams are still big, but they went from ‘get rich’ to ‘go green’. Our planet comes before profits, because if there’s no world to live in anymore, what are we going to do with all that money?”
- Karthick, Arjun & Harrish (Founders of Terra).
- This story was featured in @officialhumansofbombay