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Re-imagining a circular shampoo brand

A brand which enables and encourages circularity in plastic waste reduction and processing by servicifying our design intervention

Photo of Ankur Rawal

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We observed two categorical behaviors of users buying shampoo sachets

  1. Travelers and single individuals- Frugal mindset
  2. Daily buyers - Bottom of pyramid users (from personas)

hence, two formats for our brand:

The frugal category did not seem to buy sachets for economic convenience alone but more so for the portability and portion control. For this segment, seeking a behavior change is assumed to be possible as the humanitarian benefit of circularity can be conveyed. We propose a packaging and delivery model innovation here wherein the packaging is a more robust macro pack which is about 20ml (3 times was the average times a user buys shampoo for and uses in a week based on our estimation survey). The design involves a squeeze tube like design with a nozzle with screw on cap. The bottom end has a rollable entity (akin to how we often roll toothpaste tubes) which allows for squeezing out a desired quantity. The packaging has markers for one sachet equivalent, 2 and 3 to satisfy the portion control needs of the user.

Once used, the rolled up pack can be easily kept in the regular grocery bag and/or the wallet. For consecutive purchase the consumer takes the pack at the dispenser in the retailer location which refills the pack with 20ml content making it as good as new.

Economics of the proposed format make it lucrative for the consumer. a typical 7ml shampoo sachet costs around Rs 3/- and we propose our 20ml sachet to cost Rs 12/- and consecutive 20ml refils to cost Rs 6/-

For the daily buyer, the convenience and cost were prime concerns, hence we focussed on redesigning the packaging and the collection mechanism. The packaging makes sure that the corner tab remains on the sachet and once it is open, a sticking surface on the face of the sachet is revealed. This sticking surface allows for sticking the used sachets to each other to make a cluster and the same can be pasted on the wall of the bathroom or bathing area (in case of public bathing areas..this turns to our advantage).
We consciously chose to work on recollection and not on repurposing (by making sheets, covers, bags, etc from sachet threads) as such craft interventions though exciting and may be used to get a not seem sustainable over long term nor do they follow a cradle to cradle circular approach.

This cluster once sizable enough- that is 50 or 100 grams or 50 or 100 (each sachet is observed to weigh about 1 gram) and makes economic sense for the garbage collector to pick and sell at the recycler.

--As on July 9th---

We still haven't sorted out a suitable incentive mechanism for the BOP user to stack these sachets in their washing areas and give it to the garbage collector. But we believe that part can be sorted by a deep dive into associated needs of the end consumer and various stakeholders.

--As on August 16th--

We have decided to focus on the BOP user problem where a redesign of the collection system is envisioned. The frugal category where larger packaging format + retailer dispenser system has been covered by other ideators on the platform as well, and there were certain market and consumer dynamics which turned out to be a little beyond our control to harness in the given timeframe.

--As on August 31st--

With our sessions with our advisor, usability tests, user interviews and conversations a few co-operatives working for the needs of garbage collectors in India, we have been able to arrive at a suitable incentive mechanism for consumers as well as garbage collectors acting as enablers in segregation at source. We observed that the door to door collectors being mostly women, they happen to have their way into initiating and ensuring a behavioral change. 

Our final proposal involves making the collector an entrepreneur who converts the sachet's plastic blends into usable products which can be sold at a premium in order to cover for the low cost recoverability of small format plastics. As an initiation strategy, in order to give a higher premium to the collector (for them to assert basic behavioral changes with consumer households) the products do not follow circularity, but once a certain scale is reached and a sustainable stream of sachets is ensured, our intervention yields usable plastic products itself by processing the plastic blend.

Company / Organization Name

We are Industrial design Grad students of IIT Bombay


Where are you / your team located?

Mumbai, India

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

Our intervention for BOP users makes it economically viable for garbage collectors to collect sizeable chunks (about 50 or 100gram of pouches) from consumer's homes or site of bathing- the precise location where sachets are turned into waste. our proposed system for the frugal category (travelers and singles) allows for a relevant macro format (equivalent to 3 sachets) which is further designed for refillability at retailer location via a dispenser- hence increasing its life cycle.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Case 1- small format plastic waste- shampoo pouches (usable for coffee, ketchup and condiment sachets as well). Personas- the two from Indian context- daily buyer and garbage collector. We have come up with a

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Stemmed from users and scenarios in India, the idea may be extrapolated to markets with similar dynamics

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

We envision setting up a circular brand under a major FMCG player as our scaling up strategy. real world understanding of the distribution pipeline challenges along with getting the buy-in for circular design by stakeholders in a country where certain other needs take priority is going to be a challenge..but shouldn't deter us from being optimistic. other obstacles lie in finalizing the right sustainable incentive mechanism for the BOP market to make any efforts towards helping collection.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

Becoming a top idea first validates our team's thought process and would allow us to get our foot through the door into major FMCG companies for understanding the market and then choosing which areas need disruption/innovation. The grant would also help us get together a competent team and keep away funding worries at RnD stage away for a while

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Ankur has been working on EPR laws and circularity for the last one year and with opening of the open challenge allowed us to think solution wise and not keep expanding problems. Some free days in our academic timeline also helped us to get together and ideate on this problem. Several other solutions and ideas on the open ideo website also seemed to help since we would appreciate and critically evaluate new approaches

Tell us about your work experience

Our team's backgrounds are in Industrial design, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and market research


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Ankur Rawal 

As Refinement Phase quickly comes to a close in 8 hours, I want to remind you that the following must be submitted by tonight, August 31st at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

1. Submit the Refinement Questions Form online that was sent again via email yesterday evening--we have not yet received this from you. These questions are mandatory for Top Ideas consideration, so this should be your first priority in the final stretch.

2. A secondary priority, which is optional, is to update your Refinement Phase post. I see you've already updated your concept on the platform. But please share any additional information, photos, and documentation of your progress throughout this Phase!

Looking forward to reviewing and celebrating the amazing work you've achieved this Refinement Phase!

Photo of Ankur Rawal

Done, thanks :)

Photo of Lauren Ito

Thanks for all your hard work during the Refinement Phase!

Photo of Ankur Rawal

The last 2 months have been a great experience, special thanks to our advisor Mr. Gunzalo Munoz for taking us through the processes and nitigrities

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