Mikhail Solanki has always been a dreamer. Usually, he dreams of building. Born
and raised with an inclination for art, he always loved to draw and paint. He loves to create . This inspires him not only to create the new, but to recreate from the used, the old, the often dilapidated.
The first sparks
After having successfully restored a Messerschmitt KR200 – a car his grandfather brought down from South Africa, all the way to India – young Mikhail decided to pursue an education in Industrial Design . This brought him to the United Kingdom, where he attended the University of Hertfordshire . Educated and graduated, he returned to India and started to assist designers
with the fabrication of mobile hospitals in New Delhi. And later using smart design, at an engine oil ﬁlling plant, upgrading functionality and adding eﬃciency to the over all workings of the plant.
This factory, owned by Mikhail’s father, used to consume tens of thousands plastic bottles every day. This frustrated Mikhail: he had no control over these wasteful ways. He could now, however, start to take small steps and ﬁnd his own way to curb the waste. This marked the birth of his new company: ‘Botl’.
Mikhail chose to gather dumped glass bottles and revive them into artistic, artisan products: pleasing to the eye and eﬀectively serving a new purpose. At the back of his father’s factory, he created machinery to achieve a smooth ﬁnish. He transformed used bottles into drinking glasses, tea lights, carafes, ashtrays, lighting – you name it. And he did it with the planet in mind: “I chose to work with the most ecologically friendly method I could. No heat! Because heat uses lots of energy: you need to burn coal, LPG or use electricity, contributing to global
He chose the ‘lil ﬂea markets’ (a collection of small business) to test his product. He discovered that the consumers were right on his wavelength. During the next two and a half years, a few retailers began to sell the ‘Botl’ products in their stores.
Meanwhile, Mikhail had found love, Rhea. She turned out to compliment his business as much as she did his personal life – she streamlined the production. Together, they started to explore new horizons for a new environment, with people who would fuel their ambitions to up cycle broken glass into, among other things, the beautiful coloured tea light candle holders we know
They soon discovered that the people of Goa , on the west coast of India, were even more eco conscious than the people in Mumbai. They decided to introduce their work to these people.
The visitors of the Saturday Night Market in Goa embraced their ‘Botl’ creations. There was a problem, however. ’They loved us and they loved our product, but they weren’t buying’ Rhea says. ‘Our small team, creating a smaller volume, with greater overheads than Mumbai, drove our pricing up’ Mikhail added. Yes, they had work coming through, but not enough. Something had to change.
As a last resort, the duo began to create customised samples of their glassware and oﬀered them to several hospitality establishments in Goa. The right move. Mikhail: ‘We began to place the logos of the restaurants on our glasses and oﬀered them to the owners. We found investors who recognised the potential and so: “I WAS” was born. ’
Today, I WAS strives to clean up the coast and streets of Goa. I WAS is an umbrella brand created under the business leadership of Dale, Dries and Maurice and was built ground up to house more and more eco-conscious works. Not just glassware upcycled from bottles but also from other waste materials as well. The goal is to help the local businesses who upcycle, become sustainable businesses. The aim is for a beautiful today, and a beautiful tomorrow.
Want to ﬁnd more about the IWAS vision and community? Contact us here.