Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Tarun Jami (TJ): I have always been a supremely curious person. I have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, a master’s in environmental science and I’m currently pursuing a PhD in civil engineering. I started my journey into the construction industry through Hempcrete, a material I was smitten by while I was studying civil engineering in 2013. Consequently, I developed the world’s strongest Hempcrete technology before creating Agrocrete in 2019, and our vision to decarbonise the built environment was set in motion.
Tarun Jami, Founder, GreenJams
MB: Please introduce your business and the problems you’re trying to solve.
(TJ): At GreenJams, we are working to remove 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions. We make carbon-negative building materials from crop residues and industrial by-products, solving two major problems:
- The 45% share of buildings in global carbon dioxide emissions caused by the manufacture of building materials and the space conditioning of buildings
- The two billion tonnes of agricultural waste that is burnt or improperly discarded.
The reason I started working on hempcrete (made from hemp and a lime binder) was because of the promise it held. Hempcrete is carbon-negative, extremely thermally insulating and renewable. Furthermore, the hemp used for hempcrete grows with little care and can be cultivated anywhere. Indian building materials are heavily carbon intensive, and have very poor thermal insulation. Traditional materials which promoted thermal comfort were unfortunately not durable. There was a gap that needed to be filled and I thought hempcrete could do it.
I spent four years (2013 – 2017) studying it to assess its technical and market feasibility. In 2017 I took the plunge and set up GreenJams with the original goal of making hempcrete for the Indian construction industry. I was quite successful. In 2019, I created the world’s strongest hempcrete, but I realised that whilst it was great for the construction industry, it wasn’t solving a big problem socially. As I matured as a scientist, I started looking at hemp as a raw material which could be replaced by a whole host of other agri-residues available in India.
It was then that I came across much larger problems – crop residue burning, which costs the country almost $27 billion in economic losses and causes more than 10 million premature deaths. I decided to take on the other crop residues that are burnt in India and created Agrocrete, along with a revolution in binder technology. Now, we are able to prevent crop residue burning, supplement farmer income, make construction carbon-negative and buildings thermally insulated and climate resilient.
Today, we have the support of some major customers like ITC Ltd, CBRE, and others. So far, we have been able to prevent 250 tonnes of crop residues from burning and captured about 100 tonnes of CO2.
Construction using Agrocrete – carbon negative building materials made from crop residues and industrial by-products
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now and what support do you need?
(TJ): We manufacture physical products through deep tech innovations, which require large capital expenditures. Whilst we have been able to raise initial seed capital to establish the first manufacturing units, we need access to innovative green finances to fuel the growth of the next phase of expansion, and satisfy the requirements of large customers.
MB: What is your ambition for the future of your business?
(TJ): By 2025 we aim to cover one billion square ft of built-up area using Agrocrete and other products made by GreenJams. We also aim to obtain 50% of the Indian bricks and blocks market and 10% of the global bricks and blocks market. In the next 10 years we aim to achieve revenues of US$5 billion.
MB – Tell us a mistake you’ve learned from:
(TJ): Never sacrifice quality for anything. We recently had a situation where we hurried manufacturing and sent across Agrocrete blocks without fully curing them because we had missed deadlines. Unfortunately, almost 30% of the consignment was unfit for construction. We lost face, but the client was extremely kind and gave us a chance to redeem ourselves.
MB – How do you spend your time away from work?
(TJ): I read books and tinker in the lab, building things out of Agrocrete.
MB – What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
(TJ): Constantly train your intuition and cultivate situational awareness.
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
(TJ): “Cradle to Cradle” by Michael Braungart and William McDonough.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
(TJ): There’s so much! Marketing, operations, strategy, financial modelling, singing!
MB – What’s one thing you want to achieve in 2022?
(TJ): Raise our Series A round of funding.
Discover the other leaders recognised on the 2021 MB100, for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Global Goals, here.