It’s been quite a whirlwind since we launched. A raging tempest whose shrill laughter doesn’t always seem like fun.

A lot of new folks have been added to the distro since that sacred launch thing: BETA customers (“the FirstEvers”), investors (uh oh), and some curious souls. So, I’ll do a quick recap of what this letter business is.

I have been writing these quarterly letters since the break of the Ashayaic dawn, almost three years ago. These are not newsletters or investor “updates” that focus on tooting our horn. They are just chapters in our journey so far, yearning to bring you along on the painful joyride that this is – a little raw, a little real, and yes, fine, with a little bit of tooting.

Okay, let’s dive in.

Among the paparazzi-filled noise that the launch brought, I sometimes felt like I was losing signal.

While juggling wide-eyed journalists and deeply sceptical (but weirdly polite) investors, I felt like I was losing sight of the essence of what we do—our impact.

I missed out on the day the team went to deliver our recycled sunglasses to the waste-pickers from whom we buy waste. I was in Delhi, busy dancing with investors, instead of where I wished to be.

A friend from my New York days had persisted on Instagram: “How can I help? No, no, I really want to; what can I do?”
I told him he could sponsor some shades for the uber-cool ladies who run the scrap shop we buy our waste from. He said, Sure, I’ll donate about half, and I said, Sweet, we’ll match the rest.

When I saw photos and videos of those ladies adorning these sunglasses made from the waste that they themselves had collected and separated, I was swept away with a gush of that signal I was missing.

These women not only looked cool, but they also found them useful in the scorching summer sun. Or maybe they pretended to in front of us.

Because in the end, as nice as the gesture is, it’s only a gesture. It doesn’t change much; it just gives them some ephemeral joy and some dignity. But it’s not nothing; it’s a reminder of the impact that we can have.

10% of our sales from the BETA programme went towards scholarships for the children of waste-pickers, incentivizing them to stay in school. We transferred Rs 1 lakh to SWaCH for this, and that should give at least 12 children scholarships. I feel good but weird about that stat, a bit bittersweet—so little can do so much because only a little is sometimes enough.

Meanwhile, our business is keeping us busy. I feel like a real entrepreneur suddenly, deep in Teddy Roosevelt’s arena.

We sold quite a few of them BETA rSunglasses, more than we expected. And we delivered them all, most of them later than we thought we would, and I’ll be forever grateful for the patience of (most of) our customers.

And I’m not just saying this. Our BETA rSunglasses are far from perfect. But the beautiful, long, kind emails and feedback we received from some of our customers offering us encouragement and constructive feedback has been reaffirming: most people are good, especially if you try and treat them fairly. Thank you deeply if you’re one of them.

Taking all that feedback into account, we are working on an upgraded version. And it’s not going too well. The new moulds we just got quite dastardly late, aren’t that great. Yes, there have been some strides (a new military-inspired colour and a Dorito’s-inspired design beckon), but we still have a way to go. We are taking pre-orders on our website for when we are ready in case you’re keen.

We are looking to raise our first round of funding to test our tech at scale – to build our first decentralised recycling plant, what we call the “Final Experiment”, as we lay the foundation of our organisation for years to come.

And fundraising has not been fun at all. But it has been insightful. Amidst all the countless pitches, I have really gotten a chance to refine our strategy, finding clarity in the avalanche of scepticism. They might not get it, but I do. And I can’t wait to execute on our short-term-B2C-long-term-B2B2C play. It might sound tough and off-script, but it just makes so much sense, at least in my head.

Sometimes, the self-biassed, arrogant part of me wants to hold them and say, The time to make a bet on us is now, not when we have figured it all out. But hey, I can’t complain; we are already lucky to have some believers that are ready to make the bet, and I’ll be forever grateful for that.

One of those believers has helped us figure out how we can bring down the cost of manufacturing our materials tantalisingly close to virgin plastic. We are also working on upgrading our material and our team, while saying some goodbyes and some hellos.

We have won a bunch of awards and grants, been covered by a bunch of news publications and podcasts, and we are even heading to Stockholm next week to present at the H&M Foundation’s annual Global Change Awards.

But all that’s just noise—really good and fun and Nordic-y noise, but noise.

I just want to stay tuned to the signal.