2021 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: RCube, ESADE



Industry: Circular Economy

Founding Student Name(s): Keerthana Karunakaran

Brief Description of Solution: RCube is a material innovation and R&D company creating highly durable products using composites made of recycled waste and patented additives. Through our process, we ensure value addition to recycled materials and extend their durability.

Funding Dollars: We are at a pre-seed stage. We won a grant of $10,000 early on from Amrita TBI and since then we have been bootstrapped and own 100% of the shares.

What led you to launch this venture? Growing up in a third world country and having worked in slums, I saw the real time effects of waste and landfills in the vulnerable of the society. I remember seeing a huge wall of landfill especially washed-up plastic waste accumulated acting as a wall between homes and a beach. The children were playing alongside this and were exposed to diseases due to this set up. In my undergraduate studies as an aerospace engineer (2014), aircraft composites were my favorite subject. Eventually, our team of a world-renowned scientist, Dr. Shantanu Bhowmik, and another Aerospace engineering student, Mr. Akash Jayakumar, introduced me to this new technology of using composite technology to recycle and reclaim waste plastic strength back to 95% of its original strength. I jumped straight in with them. Together we aim to bring this solution to the world and build a truly circular economy.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? We have a patented composite, a distributor network of over 28 in India, Installations in 5 sites, and we are ready to launch our recycled plastic tiles into the market at a highly competitive price to mainstream tiles. We are also cutting off carbon emissions that would’ve actually been around 10,000 times the weight of one tile. With expanding deals across two countries, we are presently launching into the market with a forecast of reaching a revenue of USD $250,000 by June 2022.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? The MBA was helpful at multiple stages of establishing the venture. We are part of the eWorks accelerator, which also provides access to business mentors, business angels, and more. However, the journey itself was helpful in understanding a holistic image of operating any business. ESADE stands out in giving importance to sustainability and in making socially conscious business decisions. Courses like Social entrepreneurship, Venture philanthropy, and Sustainable Value Creation For Firms were unique and stood out for us in understanding how to devise a sustainable and profitable business.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? For me personally, Impact Investing, Entrepreneurial Finance, and Venture Capital helped a lot in understanding the functions of a startup ecosystem. It helped us clearly visualize the role of all stakeholders in that ecosystem and how to design and run a successful business through all these lens in a way to create maximum value for the overall ecosystem.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? The professors who made significant contributions to my plans have been Lisa Hehenberger and Ivanka Visnjic. They both helped us understand the different lenses of innovation and business design, which expands into designing a business idea as more than a product or a service but as a vision. In both these classes, we understood the importance of a long-term and short-term balance and designing every phase of a startup through different lenses. More than this, they also served as excellent role models for all the women in the batch.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our vision in the short and long-term is to build climate-resilient and environmentally friendly products and systems enabling a true circular economy.

Our initial products are eco-alternatives to roof and pavement tiles. These tiles have a strength of 30MPa, similar to concrete. They are also non-flammable, UV and Heat resistant. These products are made up of 100% recycled plastic and no fillers like sand or fly ash are added, conserving its properties and reusable nature. We chose this industry as construction generates more than 65m tonnes of plastics every year, becoming the second-largest plastic producing sector.

Currently, Global Recycled Plastic Tiles Market is USD $1.82 Billion in 2020, growing rapidly at a CAGR of 11%. It is a market that allows the purchase of larger quantities of products, thereby enabling us to buy back using reverse logistics economically.

According to UN DESA, by 2025, more than 1.6 billion people around the world will lack access to affordable, adequate and secure housing. 40% of the areas that need to be urban by 2030 do not yet exist. As the global population increases, urban areas around the world will boom, and that means a rapid increase in demand for infrastructure. The current solutions in play result in nearly 40% of global CO2 emissions caused by the construction industry. Unless we rethink the built environment and reimagine the future of infrastructure, these cities will become increasingly unsustainable, unaffordable, and socially unequal.

Here is where our solution comes in as an economic and environmentally friendly alternative for this broad scope of opportunity in the sector. We have a growing network of 28 distributors in 15 states through which we are able to reach government, institutional, and industrial customers as well.

As we tap into this market we are also gearing up to develop product solutions for multiple other partners working on other wastes including disposed tires, MLPs, tetra packs, thermocol, and biomining of waste itself. We are focusing on recycling the non-recyclables using science and technology. This is what sets us apart and ready for the next decade of big green.


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