Meet these IIT Grads who built a plant-based air purifier to improve air quality, never got funding after the episode aired

Inception of Ubreathe

Air pollution is becoming an increasingly pressing challenge in India, posing serious health risks and deteriorating air quality year after year. The consequences of breathing in polluted air, such as mental fog and cardiovascular diseases, are a growing concern. 

Fortunately, a team of young & innovative entrepreneurs from IIT Kanpur & Ropar, has created a groundbreaking solution to combat this issue – Ubreathe.

Sanjay Maurya, the CEO of Ubreathe, originates from Lucknow. His inspiration to address the urban issue of air pollution stemmed from his realization that rural concerns didn’t personally connect with him. 

Simultaneously, he observed that while innovations in water and food purification were prolific, the same level of attention wasn’t given to improving air quality.

Sanjay’s journey from assisting a senior with a startup to becoming the CEO of Ubreathe highlights his determination to address the pressing problem of air pollution.

Shubham Singh, on the other hand, comes from Jaunpur and suffered from asthma, even though he had never indulged in smoking.

His personal experience coupled with secondhand inspiration from the OTT series TVF Pitchers motivated him to work on air pollution solutions, leading him to join forces with Sanjay and the Ubreathe team. Shubham’s deep compassion for those affected by air pollution and asthma guided his decision to take on this challenge.

Ubreathe is guided by Sanjay Maurya, a Mechanical Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur, and Shubham Singh, who holds a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Ropar. 

Together, they embarked on a mission to bridge the gap in air purification technology.

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The first meeting between Sanjay and Shubham was a lively and open-minded discussion where they bonded on solving a common challenge with their shared skillset.

Sanjay recognised the potential and passion in Shubham and onboarded him. At that time Shubham had two lucrative options in hand but wanted to work with Sanjay on Ubreathe. This was enough for Sanjay to gauge the longevity of Shubham’s passion.

Myth and Opportunity

Coming back to Ubreathe, Sanjay states the potential of the air sector in a conversation with Startup Pedia and says, “In a fast developing nation like India, air is going to be a good business market at least for the next few decades

because here we will need a lot of innovation to solve a lot of challenges across different ages and geographies.”

Sanjay also believes that air purification and its awareness will set the base for innovations – something that will take a couple of years.

A prominent myth regarding air pollution (especially in India) is that the air quality degrades as we go to Tier 1 and 2 cities but Tier 3 and 4 have comparatively better air quality. 

Sanjay and his team debunk this myth. 

Sanjay explains that the metric to gauge air pollution is a bit tricky and is still being worked on as it is a hyperlocal problem.

Shubham builds on this idea and says that towns with less or no industrial activity are also exposed to bad air quality owing to air/wind flow from nearby cities with construction work.

Sanjay and his team at Ubreathe believe that air pollution is a growing problem in India. They understand that despite the scale of the challenge, the public lacks awareness of the problem and its solutions.

Sanjay says, They say what is seen can be solved. The biggest problem of air pollution is that it is an invisible problem and is talked about only when the Air Quality is very low. Secondly, the impact of air pollution is very delayed and thus not visible today. As humans, we have the tendency to solve tomorrow’s problems tomorrow only.”

Now, why should someone like you and I be concerned about pollution and think of buying an air purifier?

Shubham elucidates that it is not just industrial development that is responsible for  

bad air quality – everyday pollutants, evaporated cooking oil, pet hair dust, etc are culprits in polluting the air and anything that can clean the air of all these elements is an air purifier and thus essential for good health and well-being.

Ubreathe identified a critical problem with existing air purifiers – not only do they fall short in comprehensively addressing indoor air quality issues, but they also harm the environment.

Ubreathe’s Innovative Approach: Plant-based Air Purifiers

To address this issue, Ubreathe developed a range of unique ‘plant-based air purifiers’ designed for different settings, such as homes, offices, metro stations, airports, and shopping malls. 

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Ubreathe’s air purifiers combine the natural air-purifying abilities of plants with modern technology, enhancing the soil’s breathability to boost a plant’s ability to remove pollutants from the air.

With six patents filed in India and Europe, Ubreathe is making a significant impact on the global indoor air quality solutions market. 

They have also received certifications and recommendations from NABL-accredited laboratories and the faculty of the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi, further emphasizing the efficacy of their technology.

Shark Tank and Unfulfilled Investment

Ubreathe secured an investment of Rs 1.5 crore from entrepreneur Namita Thapar, known for her extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry. 

But the money never reached UBreathe when it was time to make the payment, causing a setback for the startup.

In a podcast conversation with Startup Pedia, Sanjay stated – Any deal on Shark Tank is not a sure shot commitment. Only 1 in 5 startups end up sealing the amount aired on television. In such a scenario, there are a lot of grey areas. In our case, it was delayed communication – months at an end. Now obviously, a startup will grow and evolve in this timespan – against the initial valuation it stated on the show.”

Sanjay explained the situation further and said,One would guess that things would start accelerating after the episode aired – but after that, only 2 – 3 emails were exchanged between us and the investors on board. Additionally, the very next step is due diligence carried on by a third party. In our case, we never reached that step. In fact, suddenly after so much back and forth, our POC (point of contact) was changed. 

Very soon Sanjay and his team realised that conversations with this new POC were not gaining any ground – as they were asked to put aside their deal showcased on air and nudged to consider a 10x valuation against Ubreathe’s revenue last year.

Sanjay says, In our case, the deal changed. The POC asked us to overlook the Rs 1 Cr debt initially promised on air – due to regulatory changes by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) that were in the works during the episode. It felt weird because we thought if this was the case, then why promise debt in the first place?”

By now, it was clear that the Shark Tank deal would not be honored and thus it was time for them to move on.

Impact and Future Plans

Sanjay and Shubham concluded on a positive note and stated, For the last several years, we have had the privilege of making a real difference in the lives of more than 10K customers. Over the next couple of months, we will be taking up marquee projects with offices and private and public schools to reach out to more people and make a bigger impact on their overall health.”

 

FAQ

1. What is UBreathe?

UBreathe offers innovative plant-based air purifiers designed to tackle indoor air pollution effectively. Their technology combines plant-based purification with modern techniques for cleaner indoor air in various settings.

2. Who are the founders of UBreathe?

UBreathe was founded by Sanjay Maurya and Shubham Singh. Sanjay, from Lucknow, and Shubham, from Jaunpur, joined forces driven by a passion to combat air pollution in India.

3. Who provided funding for UBreathe on Shark Tank India?

UBreathe received a commitment of Rs 1.5 crore from entrepreneur Namita Thapar on Shark Tank India. However, the funding didn’t materialize due to post-show changes and communication issues, leading UBreathe to move forward independently.