PHOOL.CO is not your run-of-the-mill entrepreneurial venture. An IIT Kanpur-backed biomaterial startup founded by two engineering graduates, Ankit Agarwal and Prateek Kumar in July 2017, it is focused on the circular economy. It converts floral waste into charcoal-free luxury incense products. Recently, it raised $1.4 million in a pre-Series A funding round. The funding round was led by IAN Fund and San Francisco-based Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation.
With deep-tech research, the startup has developed “Fleather” leveraging its flower recycling technology. Fleather is a viable alternative to animal leather and the startup was recently presented PETA India’s ‘Best Innovation in Vegan Fashion’ award for this product.
According to co-founder Ankit Agarwal, Phool.co provides a sustainable solution to the monumental temple-waste problem in India. “Through our efforts, we aim to build natural alternatives to synthetic chemical-based products by using deep-tech and research. We are perhaps India’s first natural incense brand taking a digital-first approach and have a first-mover advantage as bio-leathers are barely available in India.” Phool.co has expanded its operations to Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. During the lockdown, it ensured its supply chain was not disrupted by sourcing flower waste directly from the distressed horticulture farmers, bringing them critical income in the toughest of times.
On the recent funding, he said, “We are delighted to get IAN on board as an investor and the funds raised will be used to advance the research and scale the operations.” Earlier, Phool.co had raised Rs 3.38 crore in a seed round from Social Alpha (FISE), DRK Foundation, IIT Kanpur and Balmer Lawrie, among others.
The IAN Fund, a Rs 375 crore fund, is a differentiated seed/early stage Fund which aims to transform India’s entrepreneurial landscape. It invests in innovative companies in sectors including healthcare and medical devices, VR, AI, software as a service, marketplaces, fintech, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, agritech and hardware. Padmaja Ruparel, founding partner, IAN Fund said, “Innovative solutions for the sustainable development of the community is the need of the hour. Phool.co’s circular economy model brings triple bottom benefits of environmental, social, and financial sustainability.”
For its endeavour to make sustainable products, Phool.co has received several international recognitions including the United Nations Young Leaders Award for Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations Momentum of Change Award at COP 2018, Asia Sustainability Award 2020, Hong Kong, Alquity Transforming Lives Awards, London and Breaking the Wall of Science, Berlin.