Back in August 2015, Ravi Toor won the monthly Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future award for his company Filamentive, which came with business growth advice from the firm’s experts and £5,000 in start-up funding. Remarkably, all this has been achieved while still studying for his undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds. In March 2016, he was selected as a finalist in the overall Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year award – and despite that youth, one can only predict that there is far more to come from him yet.
Our founder and CEO Jurga Zilinskiene is a one-time award winner in the very same competition, and worked closely with Shell LiveWIRE in a judging capacity this year. Ravi was kind enough to speak to Today Translations about Filamentive’s sustainability aims, and what he hopes to achieve moving forward.
1)What is Filamentive, and what issues does the firm address?
Filamentive is a brand of consumables for desktop 3D printers. Most desktop 3D printers use plastic as the feedstock or “ink” to create objects with. Other filament brands do not focus enough on sustainability and so at filamentive, we strive to provide high quality consumables, encompassing sustainability credentials at an affordable price point. Waste plastic is a global problem – only 1-3% is recycled and so we should do more to combat this. in 3D printing, many objects are short-lived and get disposed, therefore we want to develop a way of recycling this waste back into filament which the client can re-use – preventing virgin material extraction, disposal of plastic and also reducing the cost to the client.
2) What inspired you to found Filamentive?
Since late 2013 I have run an online business – 3DPrintMegastore.com – selling 3D printers online. We have sold to over 50 countries and to University clients such as Lincoln University, Keele and University College London. Selling the printers meant we also had to sell the filament. Market research revealed that competitors only focused on one USP, whereas at filamentive, I believe it is important to have many benefits as there will be different users with different needs. Our price appeals to price conscious consumers, our recycled lines appeal to the environmentally aware and our European manufacture instils credibility and confidence. My degree, Environment and Business which I study at Leeds University, has developed my knowledge of sustainability and CSR practice and I genuinely believe this has influenced my vision for filamentive.
3) What traits do you think a successful entrepreneur needs to possess?
Adaptability is a big one, you need to be able to improvise and respond quickly to changes. Often at the start you are on your own so you need to be able to handle all business activity, whether that’s being the salesman, receptionist, delivery guy or technician! Time-management is another key skill, with so much to do, it is important to plan what you’re going to do but also work effectively. Communication is also key, whether you’re dealing with potential clients, suppliers or employees, you need to be professional and effective with all stakeholders.
4) In your opinion, do young British innovators focus enough on sustainability?
The sustainability theme has become more prevalent in recent times, yes, but overall I believe we need to be more sustainable. I think there’s a common misconception that sustainability is only about environmental sustainability, so I think it is important for decision makers within British organisations to consider social sustainability factors – such as apprenticeships, staff loyalty perks etc. as well as financial sustainability which is obviously the most important because without it the business will cease to exist and so the social and environmental strategy cannot be carried out. I think leaders must also recognise the PR benefits of sustainability, not only are they doing well for people and the environment, but the fact they are will appeal to customers and potentially investors.
5) What goals do you have for your firm following Shell LiveWIRE?
We hope to expand our reseller network at within the next three months we want to secure a UK reseller and also a European reseller, possibly in France, Germany or Netherlands. I also want Filamentive to be the pioneers of recycling in the 3D printing sector. As I mentioned previously, many objects that are 3D printed go to waste and so it will be a win-win for both us and the client if we can reprocess the waste back into usable filament, helping to close the loop and make the industry sustainable. In order to deliver this, we need to work with large scale 3D printer users, such as businesses, education clients and community spaces such as Fab Labs to collect their waste and do the research into the most effectively recycling methods.
6) Where do you see yourself and your brand in five years’ time?
I see Filamentive as a leading desktop 3D printer consumable brand, stocked across the world, highly regarded for our pioneering recycling projects and general sustainability. I see myself still running the business, alongside other 3D printing ventures as well as business interests in other sectors.
7) The 3D printing market clearly has great international potential. Do you hope to expand into foreign countries? If so, which countries are most attractive to you?
Of course, 3D printing is huge across the content, most notably in France, Italy and Netherlands. Israel is another hotbed for 3D printing and so it would be great to access that market via a reseller based there. As with many markets, the USA is a big 3D printing nation and so it will be hugely lucrative to be able to find resellers of Filamentive across the states.
8) What challenges do you think would come with launching in foreign markets?
Language will be a challenge. With many of our target markets abroad, we must ensure that our packaging and product labels, marketing campaigns and even website can be translated into the relevant languages. Not only that, but we must ensure that the translations are accurate and culturally correct as there can be some nightmares when translating directly! For my product in particular, this will involve selling to resellers who will market and sell the products for me. Selling via resellers means some control is lost and it is important to find resellers that are reliable and credible. Logistics in another problem, especially for physical products as this will involve finding reliable freight companies, dealing with foreign governments/customs, as well as the financial burden of unexpected fees and tariffs – therefore research is needed into the country you are selling to/in to make sure it is as inexpensive and hassle-free as possible.
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Keep abreast of Ravi’s progress with Filamentive at the twitter handle @filamentive and the website http://www.filamentive.com/