Shaan Lalwani, the founder of sustainable detergent brand, Coco Custo, had seen her mother design clothes under the brand name Designs India, and host what was perhaps Mumbai’s first pop-up store in her parent’s garden at Cooperage. She had also seen her father design race and rally cars as well as vintage cars. Her sister used to race and rally too. So it only made sense that she specialised in automotive engineering. When she graduated in 2008 the market was in a slump and she ended up coming home to look for a job. Stumped at not finding anything she liked, she ended up in construction and real estate business. It was then that she met a friend of a friend over a cup of jasmine tea.
She had always loved the outdoors and been a strong proponent for sustainability. In college she did her junior thesis on the viability of biodiesel as a replacement fuel and for her senior thesis she worked on her professor’s engine downsizing project–one in which you make an engine smaller in order to give you the same amount of power for making them fuel efficient in the process.
However it wasn’t until 2016 that she started making sustainability a central part of her life, when she saw the effect plastic pollution had on once pristine shorelines.
In 2017, while on a diving trip to Mauritius, Shaan learnt that grey water runoff containing cleaning chemicals was killing of all the coral. She was so triggered by it that when she got home, she decided to quit her job and throw herself completely into creating a sustainable planet for the future generation. It was then that she founded Coco Custo.
The brand was created with the singular ambition of making sustainable cleaning products accessible and more functional than the ones they were replacing.
“We also believe that sustainability should not be a choice or a chore, and sustainable products need not cost the earth,” says Shaan who aims for a better world with her sustainable detergent powder.
“I started Coco Custo with a simple idea. To create cleaning products that do no damage to the environment, human and animal health, as well as providing a superior experience to the consumer.”
Shaan spent the first year alone, developing and branding the product with the help of Designaren (now, Bokaap Design)–a woman owned design company based in Mumbai. She set up a mini lab in her kitchen, took crash courses in Chemistry from Khan Academy and Coursera and went through several iterations before taking the product to the market this June. That’s when she realised that she couldn’t really do it on her own.
While volunteering as a mentor for the Udayan Shalini Foundation (which empowers young women from underprivileged backgrounds with scholarships for their education, workshops and general skill building), she came across two girls–one a student of pharmacy and the other studying commerce–whom she employed part-time for her organisation.
The company’s development cycle lasted close to 18 months and went through countless iterations to find the perfect balance of natural ingredients. They used the European defined AISE standards for detergency to test the products efficiency and cleaning ability, but modified it for the Indian context.
While they did tests on coffee and ketchup stains, she also added chai, haldi (turmeric) and achaar (pickle) to it. It turned out to work really well in removing both haldi and Achaar stains. Unfortunately, removing chai stains proved to be a challenge for every detergent they tested, including the market leaders. All their ingredients are made as per the European Ecocert Ecolabel standards and they are working to get certified later this year.
Check out their page here.
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