Dressing down the virus

It was hate at first sight for Deepthi Nathala that made her come up with a permanent solution to stay safe from dust, pollution and now coronavirus

Manju Latha Kalanidhi Published :  16th January 2022 08:07 PM   |   Published :   |  16th January 2022 08:07 PM

It was hate at first sight for Deepthi Nathala that made her come up with a permanent solution to stay safe from dust, pollution and now coronavirus. When this electrical engineer from IIT-Madras landed in Hyderabad in December 2018 after having worked for a decade with reputed companies such as Betalectic IT Projects in the US, and TPCFZE Process Packages in Dubai, she was annoyed that the scarves/cotton dupattas in the market barely protected her skin from dust and pollution.

“The nanotechnologist in me researched to conclude that cloth gives just 15 percent protection from dust or pollution. While I started researching on a fabric that would give complete protection, the pandemic broke out, and I decided to make one that would be virus-resistant too. This is how Hecoll was born,” she says. Nathala’s revolutionary idea was featured in Shark Tank India, an Indian business reality television series that airs on SET India (started in December 2021). The series showcases entrepreneurs making business presentations to a panel of five investors or sharks, who decide whether or not to invest in their company.

Hecoll, short for Healthy Cover For All, came out with this revolutionary fabric that blocks 99 percent UV rays, filters 95 percent pollution and inhibits viruses and bacteria upon contact. “With eco-friendly cotton at its base, I worked out a method to bind the fabric with ‘bodyguard molecules’, that could filter particulate matter, and kill viruses/bacteria upon contact. Cotton on its own cannot fight off these viruses or block out UV rays but there are cavities in the fabric that can be filled up with ‘bodyguard molecules’,”
she says.

Nathala explains the product. These bodyguard molecules come in three forms. Extracted from plants like turmeric and neem, these are nonpolar molecules that have germ-killing abilities and UV ray absorption capacities. The second is through metal components like nanosilver and nano copper that also possess germ-killing properties and UV ray absorption capacity. She chose copper as it is used to store water and make equipment for treating wounds. The third is going beyond plant and metal-based ‘bodyguard molecules’—one can even employ certain chemical compositions using nanotechnology to fill up those cavities.

Hecoll is now known for developing a special kind of cotton fabric in two types—nano copper and a secret patented nano chemical composition. The fabric can protect people from viruses like H1N1 and Covid-19, and bacteria like salmonella and E.coli. It also protects from pollen and filters out polluting gasses.
Some studies show that germs can stay active on textile surfaces for up to two days. Premium Indian textile brands such as Reliance, Arvind, Aditya Birla, Donear Group, Raymond Siyaram as well as a few start-ups now manufacture virus-resistant fabric. The desire for inclusive antiviral products have boosted the global market for anti-viral apparel, which could exceed $20.5 billion by 2026. A leading Italian luxury fabric producer, Albini Group has developed such a fabric that is being used by Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Armani and Prada. Its ViroFormula Fabric claims to kill coronavirus 229E within a few minutes of contact and reduce the load by 99 percent in 30 minutes.

2022 updates

✥ Hecoll is now working out B2B tieups with airline companies and restaurants/hotels for thei-r upholstery
✥ On the retail front, Hecoll products such as antiviral face masks (pack of five costs `1,870), headgear, baby wraps for newborns, bags, caps, hats, patient gowns, doctor coats, bed sheet linen,
surgical gowns are available on e-commerce sites such as Amazon
✥ Nathala is looking for funding to scale up her operations to supply this tech-embedded fabric across the country, possibly the world, soon