Sanjeev Swamy, Inventor, Founder and CEO, Livinguard AG, heads a global hygiene technology company that has been at the centre of conversations during the pandemic because of the Livinguard mask, proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses, including the novel coronavirus. Here, the scientist-turned-entrepreneur takes us through his journey, using Livinguard technology to benefit people in their everyday lives, and what he plans to do with it in future
Take us through your journey with Livinguard right from the stage when the idea was born to now. Apparently, a challenge from a British Brigadier General acted as a catalyst to you inventing the technology in 2010… can you please recount that and other anecdotes through the journey?
Livinguard technology was first conceived of in 2010, when posed with an interesting technical challenge from a British Brigadier General. He explained that on several occasions, soldiers aren’t able to change their uniforms frequently, let alone wash them. He was looking for clothes that can be worn for 15 days at a stretch without causing any skin infections or odour. This got me thinking and we cracked the technology that destroyed bacteria and viruses; the main cause for odour and skin infections in such situations. We started with underwear and socks and went on to treat uniforms. Through extensive R&D, we were able to diversify our product applications to include medical apparel, bakery textiles, water filters, sanitary napkins and most recently masks and gloves. The core of the technology - destroying bacteria and viruses - remains the same,regardless of the product application.
GROWING UP IN MUMBAI
Sanjeev Swamy harks back to his childhood in Mumbai, and the inequity he saw around him, that in a way became the inspiration to put the health and well-being of people at the centre of his scientific efforts. “Having grown up and studied in India, the issues surrounding poverty and inequity were not foreign to me. After working for several years, gaining a foothold in the textile industry, I was finally in a position to contribute to do something about these issues. My real challenge was to use Livinguard to do good for the largest number of people, especially for those who need it the most. I remain steadfast in my commitment towards the health and well-being of consumers. We recognise local requirements and tailor our product applications to innovate for both emerging and developed markets with the same commitment to people and the planet,” says Swamy, who in his freetime, loves to cook and explore various cuisines.
You came up with the Livinguard mask that can inactivate bacteria and viruses, including the novel coronavirus, during the pandemic. What has been the uptake for it worldwide? What next on that front?
Livinguard AG had already developed B2B businesses for its anti-bacterial and antiviral textiles for medical/hospital and military apparel, hospitality, and air and water filtration products. About 18 months before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in December 2019,Livinguard AG made its foray into the consumer hygiene space, with fabric-based face masks to address the problem of air pollution, which is perhaps the most salient silent pandemic that has been destroying lives and the planet for years. When the current pandemic hit, we quickly pivoted back to our core expertise of developing cutting-edge antibacterial and antiviral textiles, recognising our responsibility to provide people with protection against the virus. We redesigned our existing face mask to provide the user with the ultimate protection against COVID-19, along with the necessary testing and regulatory clearances to support it. In June 2020, we launched a first-of-its-kind reusable antimicrobial Ultra face mask with four layers of protection. Treated with the patented Livinguard technology, it has been proven to destroy >99.9% of bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Soon after, we launched two more versions of a reusable face mask, Pro and Street versions, which are also treated with Livinguard technology and provide three and two layers of protection respectively. All our masks can be reused for more than six months; if worn daily and washed weekly up to 30 times, each Livinguard mask effectively replaces 210 single-use masks. Thus, our technology not only protects the user, but also the planet.
Most recently, we launched reusable Street gloves treated with the same Livinguard technology. Given the versatility of the technology, we will soon launch several products ranging from tube masks, T-shirts, socks and even household cleaning products like wipes. Our technology can give almost any textile-based product application the power of continuous and permanent disinfection.
You associated with Delhi Capitals players during IPL 2020, where they wore Livinguard masks, and have now got Sourav Ganguly on board to endorse your masks and gloves. How have the associations worked for the brand?
Purpose-driven partnerships have come to the forefront in a post-corona world. While safety and protection remain key drivers, brands are looking for meaningful and long-lasting collaborations to drive shared value and remain relevant in such times. Our association as the official hygiene partner of the Delhi Capitals exemplifies this trend. The underlying message of all campaigns remain the same: Livinguard ensures you are equipped to live in today’s ‘new normal’.By ensuring the team’s safety off the field, we were instrumental in their ability to perform on the field and part of their journey to the IPL 2020 finals. This association helped us gain awareness among Indian consumers and build our equity in the hygiene space.
Our partnership with Sourav Ganguly is an extension to this. We are keen to build a stronger presence in India and the APAC region. As a leader and role model in the world of cricket and beyond, Sourav exemplifies the ethos of the Livinguard brand - to prioritize the protection of people and the planet.
Through the years, your research has been aimed towards creating ecologically sustainable ways that will benefit people in their everyday lives. What, according to you, are some of your best creations?
While our current priority is PPE and consumer hygiene, given the need of the hour, according to me, our best creations have been our low-cost, gravity-based water purifiers and reusable sanitary napkins, Saafkins. Water filters made of Livinguard fabric can turn micro-biologically contaminated water into safe drinking water. The technology reliably removes a broad spectrum of micro-organisms, with demonstrated removal rates up to 99.99999% for bacteria, 99.99% for viruses and 99.99% for coliphage. Livinguard has over 1,500 community filters in use across railway stations, hospitals, schools, offices and villages, beginning a deep-rooted change that has seen increased school enrolment and reduced absenteeism, illnesses and healthcare costs. Saafkins, a re-usable 12-hour period panty and napkin, is constructed from Livinguard-treated fabric that makes it highly absorbent, hygienic and allows it to be washed numerous times, even with hand soap. At just Rs 200, a girl or woman can be provided sanitary care for a year.
Is the scientist in you at any point in conflict with the businessman at the helm of Livinguard AG, a large hygiene technology company?
The versatility of the Livinguard technology is mind-boggling; with modifications and targeted R&D, Livinguard can be applied to almost any substrate and give it the power of permanent disinfection. Our current priority remains PPE and consumer hygiene products, but the possibilities are endless. I wouldn’t say there is a conflict, but a constant need for re-alignment of strategic imperatives. We need to be able to pivot ourselves and adapt to dynamic circumstances not only in terms of cataclysmic events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, but also geographical needs.