The Manufacturer Top 100 2021 alumni Radhika Srinivasan, 26, is the CEO and Founder of EcoTextura. She is part of Sir Henry Floyd Class of 2013 and went on to study a Masters in Mechanical Engineering with Business Finance, a dual degree at both University College London (UCL) and London School of Economics (LSE). She began researching and redesigning the inefficient protective personal equipment (PPE) she was made to wear during her hospital visits for her knee in 2015. Radhika later based her BEng university thesis on developing more ergonomically-designed PPE & sustainable, compostable fabrics that can be used to replace existing plastic-based fabrics in PPE; winning awards and funding for the idea during her time at UCL.
Click here to view the video of the full Top 100 interview with Radhika Shrinivasan.
What is your role at EcoTextura?
I’m Radhika Srinivasan and I’m the CEO and Founder of EcoTextura. We create proprietary, sustainable and inclusive design PPE as well as recyclable or industrially compostable fabrics for the medical industry. We supply to numerous NHS Trusts and organisations across the UK and the world and have been working on the company for several years prior to COVID-19. I take care of the operations and the product research and development.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Top 100?
It’s an absolute honour to be a part of the Top 100 – mainly because of the incredible network of individuals that you can be a part of. The community is filled with people who love engineering, design and manufacturing. Also, being a founder can sometimes be very lonely, and it’s great to know that there are others in manufacturing who also understand your challenges. I’m also proud to represent minorities in the industry, being a woman in engineering/STEM and a female founder, and moving to the UK as an immigrant many years ago. It’s great to be a part of this representation and give hope to the younger generation that you can pave your way in a big industry, as long as you are passionate and proactive enough!
What do you think are the key attributes which led to you being nominated?
Staying true to myself – I quit a stable job/salary in stockbroking after completing my engineering studies, to revisit my design and engineering passions and start up EcoTextura. Seeing my concept through to completion by giving it the love, energy and resources it deserved. I also love regularly researching about engineering, materials and the industry which gives me so much inspiration for my work (and reassures me that this path is the right one for me right now).
What do you find most inspiring about working in manufacturing and when did you realise this is the career for you?
I find the idea creation process so inspiring – how people interact with products and systems, and how these things influence our decisions in product design and manufacturing. And how people’s ideas collectively come together to make a finished product. It’s a real team effort – I talk to my suppliers about a new mask idea and to my NHS contacts and customers to see what they need. I talk to our marketing and customer care team to see what features work well, and all of this comes together to make the ultimate product. A very tiring but satisfying process.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career in manufacturing?
Growing up with a father who is an electrical engineer and seeing him fix up/repair the house and our toys, and watching shows like ‘How it’s made’ is what sparked my interest for this way of life, and always looking at things like practical puzzles! I’ve seen my dad handle electronic items, and seen how the products he works with adapt and develop over time – it’s a great process and I wanted to try it!
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far and how have you overcome it?
My first big challenge was getting EcoTextura off the ground when I started the company in 2019, and establishing myself in an industry where I had no prior contacts, just a product design and lots of research – this was definitely overcome by the need for innovation and the PPE shortage at the time. It accelerated our development and we grew our supplier and customer list.
However, I believe I’m going through one of my biggest challenges right now – I’m exploring how to pivot to make our company post-COVID-proof. We’ve created and supplied gowns and transparent masks that met the requirements of the current market during the intense lockdown days of the pandemic, but we need to shift our efforts back to the main purpose of EcoTextura – in making the sustainable PPE of the future. This requires a lot of out-of-the box and long-term thinking, and analysis of the wider systems that hospitals use. This is currently ongoing.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in manufacturing during your career?
One of the biggest changes in manufacturing that I have seen is how we share our information and how we coordinate our project and resources in teams. From using cloud data systems, co-working on documents and mindmaps simultaneously, how we do virtual meetings and how we create and share our product designs. It’s so much easier now to show your suppliers and customers (who may be many time zones away) all the project and product details. Rather than sending product designs and emails back and forth, everything is so much more efficient, and project periods are drastically reducing.
What are the biggest challenges that are facing manufacturing as a whole and how are you and your company seeking to address this?
The biggest challenges facing manufacturing is knowing how we can make and execute every decision going forwards, to become more sustainable and transparent. Taking accountability for how our products are made and where everything is sourced. For example, we have our reusable, recycled tricot masks, and our compostable mask material, etc.
Can manufacturing learn anything from any other sectors? If so, what?
Yes, the manufacturing industry can learn a lot from charities/NGOs and working with them to find solutions.
What sort of growth/change has your company implemented/gone through over the last 12/18 months and how has this been managed?
In this transformative year, EcoTextura has designed, been approved and supplied its innovative PPE to national public health organisations, local councils, numerous disability charities, schools, emergency services, and institutions across the country and world. It also supplied essential PPE to hospitals during the shortage last year, and manufactured and supplied over 1,300+ reusable cotton masks to local, vulnerable individuals. Currently, EcoTextura’s uniquely designed, inclusive, transparent medical mask makes a huge positive impact on various communities, including those who are deaf and hard of hearing, have learning disabilities, the elderly etc. who rely heavily on lip-reading to communicate.
What do you think will be the long-term legacy of this current period of unprecedented change with the manufacturing sector?
We will become a generation of strong pivoters – over the pandemic we have seen so many manufacturing companies use their resource and expertise to manufacture new products that helped medical staff, patients etc. During testing times, we have shown that we have the resilience, resourcefulness and creativity to think on our feet for the better good. I hope this also shines a light on how the manufacturing companies should think about how their technology/machinery can be used in the medical industry too.
What advice would you have for any younger people who are considering a career in manufacturing?
At 26 years old, I’m still a young person myself. I’m still learning, researching and letting things inspire me. Manufacturing is such an incredible industry – you can be making and designing cars, or prosthetics or working with light and sound – the possibilities are endless. There’s so much to explore so keep asking questions, ask to visit factories and absorb information like a sponge! You’ll increase your luck and opportunities this way.