With an aim to remove non-sustainable hardware from the aviation industry, its first core prototype is a redesigned lightweight in-flight economy food tray called NEOS Fly which combines functionality, sustainability, and technology, and would make a positive impact on the environment, while also allowing airlines to save money in the long run.
Dubai-based startup The Concept is making its presence felt in this landscape thanks to its innovations that help boost the sector’s efforts in the sustainability domain.
Founded by Yadhushan Mahendran, Maria Sobh, and Muhammad Rijal Hikmatullah, The Concept was formed in 2017 with the mission to create “disruptive hardware and software solutions that embodies sustainability, technology, and innovation.”
With the initial aim to remove non-sustainable hardware from the aviation industry, its first core prototype distorts a centuries-old product: a passenger’s inflight food tray. The redesigned lightweight in-flight economy food tray called NEOS Fly combines functionality, sustainability, technology and conveniences, and would make a positive impact on the environment, while also allowing airlines to save money in the long run as well.
The trio, who have diverse backgrounds in business, design, and engineering, started out on this enterprise while they were university students, and got their venture off the ground by joining the Dubai-based aviation and travel incubator, Intelak. Having to balance their final year as university students, while setting up their own startup was a challenging but rewarding experience, Mahendran remembers: “We’ve not only grown as co-founders, but also grown individually as entrepreneurs in way where we’ve learnt how to balance our company.”
He commended the program’s mentors as essential in helping them realize the capacity to build a startup, while also helping boost their relationship and skills, which soon grew to complement each other’s. “This [experience] not only let us validate our business potential by working with some of the world’s leading airlines and flight catering centers, but it also helped us to fulfill and understand the fact that there is a need for sustainable hardware in this market.”
Being selected as one of the top winners in the program then enabled them to get direct access to key stakeholders in the aviation market, and they soon noticed the lack of sustainable hardware for the aviation sector. “This further strengthened our drive towards achieving our vision. Our aim through our company is to balance innovation, sustainability, and price points for our clients, whilst maintaining the highest possible quality.”
By honing into this gap in the MENA region’s aviation market, the co-founders settled in on The Concept’s core value of sustainability, and essentially, disrupting the supply chain of waste management. The Concept partnered with manufacturers and recyclers based in Europe, wherein they have the capability to design, manufacture, and recycle in-house.
Though they’re currently engaging with UAE government sectors to help setup production facilities locally, finding a local company with whom they could partner up with was a major hurdle initially, as most of them didn’t want to work with smaller companies like The Concept. However, the co-founders call this one of their “best” hurdles, as it forced them to look for out-of-the-box solutions, which included designing products designed in UAE and having material and production partners in Europe. By creating such partnerships, they hope to reduce production and final product costs, while also achieving a sustainable product life cycle.
Mahendran describes their process as one that goes into “identifying the gaps of lack of practicality, and where sustainability as a solution hasn’t been introduced.” He elaborates, “It’s become natural for us to begin by diving deep into the design, material, and business model of a product. The first questions we ask ourselves are: ‘How is it being made?’ and ‘What happens to the product at the end of its lifecycle?’ ”
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