S2E33 - Dhiraj Sharma, Founder of 8mango

Dhiraj Sharma is the founder of 8mango where they create artefacts using a handful of domestic junk such as e-waste. Today, they have transformed more than 70 kgs of e-waste, plastic junk into artefacts for corporates and individuals.

Highlights:

  • How Dhiraj began creating art from waste
  • From producing takeaway miniatures to large scale installations
  • Making useful items, not just art, in order to reach a wider audience
  • Proposing a theme vs working to a concept decided by a client
  • Working with TEDxHyderabad to create a 10x10ft piece of work
  • How and why Dhiraj transitioned from a career in animation to 8mango
  • Sourcing materials to work with and adjusting methods due to company growth and higher demand
  • Dhiraj’s goals to have global impact and the challenges 8mango will face
  • Being an inspiration to his son, who has also started to create art from junk

Useful links:

8mango

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Transcript

Will  0:08  

Welcome back to the green element podcast where we feature business leaders and innovators transforming their operations to be more environmentally and socially sustainable. I’m your host Will Richardson and I can’t wait to meet our guest today and help you on your journey of sustainability. And we’re welcoming Dhiraj from 8mango.com today. He is an artist that produces waste out of art out of waste. And over the last 14 years, he has used over 70 kilograms worth of waste. And a lot of them are small pieces. He makes corporate art gifts and he makes really unique gifts for unique occasions and I’ve seen some of them and they are Brilliant and I just love the ingenuity and the thought process and the skill level that you have to be able to do what he does. So I hope you enjoy the podcast. Dhiraj, welcome to the green element podcast. No, it’s brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant. Your company, business is 8mango.com it’s a brilliant name but an even better business because in your words, you’re a junk art company. Please explain more about what it is that you do.

 

Dhiraj  1:36  

It started like a with a small pile of junk when I started in my home with some hands full of domestic junk that is leftover pieces of landline phone and all that is how I got got started. I created some artefact and people around me appreciated and that is how I got carried away. And eventually like every year there was some opportunity to showcase my work and more and more people started appreciating and noticing what I’m doing. And I think then this whole concept of sustainability was not in the picture. This was, I think, 10 years back or something. And now now I think it it’s become word of mouth like I create junk out of junk. And this is now a fad. And it’s it’s happening term like recycle and reuse. So we are now people are much more aware than they were previously. And I create artefacts for corporates, it could be take away miniatures, or it could be large scale installations for their lobbies and spaces. So the idea is to make people aware that what you see as junk has more to it, if at all, it can’t be recycled, it can definitely be upcycle to something new that they couldn’t imagine. So that is the whole theme of 8mango.

 

Will  2:56  

And this is gonna sound like a really stupid question possibly, what is a normal thing that you make your art out of? Or is there no such thing as a normal piece of waste item?

 

Dhiraj  3:08  

So it’s difficult to create art all the time. So one challenges, not many people are actually directly interested in art. So what we do is we create utility items such as lamps and table clocks, using junk. I mean, apart from the machine, the clock machine, the entire thing could be, say, for example, one for one of the event that happened last year in Bangalore. So the theme was refurbished electronic items and what we could produce from our side we created mementos for them, which were created using waste CDs, discarded CDs, so we came up of we came up with the idea of creating desktop clocks, and the dial display was used as a CD. So I think once I just show you the picture, I have one

 

Will  3:56  

Oh, it’s a shame. This is audio because

 

Dhiraj  3:59  

Okay, oh, Okay,

 

Will  4:01  

I can see it rather selfish. I’ll be able to see it. And that’s brilliant. That’s brilliant. And maybe you could send us a picture of it so we can put it up on the website so that people can see it.

 

Dhiraj  4:11  

Definitely. I’ll do that.

 

Will  4:13  

And what’s the largest thing that you’ve, you’ve made because you said that you have made some really large items.

 

Dhiraj  4:19  

So one of my engagement was with TEDx that has TEDxHyderabad, which happened two years back. So I came up with this idea like nowadays, hardly people, especially the radiologists, they don’t use the old excel sheet. It’s all digitalized here. And we have a pile of X ray sheets, which are obsolete nowadays. So using those X ray sheets, I could create 10 feet by 10 feet artefact that is for TEDxHyderabad, and this artefact was portrait of great Indian president and scientists APJ Abdul Kalam, so they still have preserved it. So this was a very distinct milestone in the journey of 8mango so far. So this comprise of some more than 500 extra sheets that were used in creating this artefact.

 

Will  5:09  

Brilliant. And so have you always been an artist? Is this something that’s there’s always been or or have you moved into this industry? It’s not really an industry is it?

 

Dhiraj  5:24  

Yeah, maybe it’s too early to say if it is an industry right away and but yeah, interestingly, I started my career in animation. And dealing with pixel didn’t satisfy me because there’s always a feeling that you want to touch what you create, but I couldn’t achieve that feeling while playing with polygons. So just to satisfy my feeling, I started fiddling with junk and that is how it got started. And I somehow was very inclined in knowing how these movies like Star Wars an all were being made before CG came into picture like computer graphics came in. So they were using miniatures and all. So that was a phase in my life. And I thought like I can do a lot in the these. So that is how I started fiddling with junk. And it started with some small miniatures, and now it’s scaling up every year in terms of dimension and in terms of the quantity of events that that we use to create artefacts.

 

Will  6:29  

And where do you get your waste your junk from? Do you have to be quite careful about where you pick it up or?

 

Dhiraj  6:37  

So so far, it’s been like, when I started creating miniatures, my colleagues from my office and my friends and my neighborhood, they were aware of what I’m doing. So I mean, I’ve been fortunate. They were accumulating for me, and that was on a very small level, but as I picked on doing something on a bigger scale, and I somehow got in touch with people those who deal with [inaudible] and those stuff and, and I am now collaborating with them. So it, it’s pretty feasible for me to get the kind of junk that I’m looking for, say for example, it could be, for example, I was working with this, the clocks that I mentioned. For that I wanted some similar keyboards. I mean, I got some more than 300 keyboards of similar dimensions that that helped in creating something which looks very similar. Like if you’re giving in volumes, you don’t want to differ from each and every piece. So just to maintain the uniformity. I could create all these mementos with similar dimensions.

 

Will  7:44  

Okay. And yeah, I’ve got two questions. Do you think you’ll find it hard to find more art as you grow? Or will you design and come up with ideas with what you have around you? So

 

Dhiraj  8:00  

Good question. Good question as it’s both ways like it both ways, sometimes it’s theme driven. As in we propose a theme to a corporate or to my customers like this is the theme that we can do based on your requirements or sometimes it comes from them, like they are very much sure what exactly they are looking for. And then in that case, it’s a challenge because to meet the demand as in to meet what they are looking for, for example, some of our client they wanted particularly a design to be done using [inaudible] because they are an electronic company. So in that case, it becomes a challenge in terms of getting a particular material or a waste of that category to make that artefact. So that’s a challenge in doing artefacts with theme based motors.

 

Will  8:56  

You’ve mentioned the team how many other on other team have you

 

Dhiraj  9:00  

The team is pretty small as an all are self taught artists and [inaudible] when we get some bigger assignments as in, say, for example for TEDx for TEDx, we were like three to four artists, [inaudible] and we worked for a couple of weeks and we reverted with whatever the requirements were. So we clubbed as per the requirements and it’s usually like some some as for the occasion, mostly like, TEDx events are fixed for usually September or October, and we have some other events which are which are placed in February March. So these happen at periodic level. So beforehand, we get intimation like, okay, fine, there’ll be a requirement for such art. And and we start developing a concept and because we have to be prepared beforehand, what, what we’ll be producing, and we prepare according to the events that we have [inaudible].

 

Will  10:04  

And you you said that you make artefacts and stuff, I guess on mass as in for, for shows etc do you make individual items as well?

 

Dhiraj  10:20  

Yes, I do as an, one one of the concept was a startup in Bangalore wanted to gift a take away to a very selective team of theirs. This was for the marketing team and they wanted something which which would resemble this team. So, we came up with the idea of old STD booth the phone booth. So, we created phone booth for them and it was like some some 10 or 15 unique pieces. And they used it as a as a trophy as a reward for the team. So that has a different value because this is something that they cannot buy in the market. It’s not there, it’s only handful of unique pieces which which which they’ll carry as a reward. So, which means a very special gift or reward to them that team. So this is how I usually collaborate, like, where there’s a need. So I make a point like how we can use maximum junk to create artefacts out of it.

 

Will  11:26  

And do you sell only to Indians in India or

 

Dhiraj  11:32  

So far, it’s been only in India and it’s been bought, it’s been like, we, we also get engaged. Say, for example, when the event of when this event of TEDx happen. So I, I represent this experience zone where people come and contribute as in they participate, to create something artefact like like a DIY in a collective uh collectively, so these kinds of engagements we do but yeah, I mean haven’t shipped anything outside India so far but yeah, soon soon we are going to achieve that also.

 

Will  12:12  

And is that is that your goal to try and have more of a worldwide impact?

 

Dhiraj  12:19  

It is it is but but, but the challenge we faces since shipping of artefact is a tremendous task in itself as in it requires a lot of, it requires a lot of packaging in terms of say for example, one of my artefact is is Buddha which is which is made using more than 600 dials, restaurants, dials, and to ship these it’s a difficult it’s a difficult – we are in the phase where people are asking for artefacts but we are not able to ship because of logistic reasons and so so yeah, it’s in that space that we are stuck with. But hopefully we’ll be we’ll be like, hopefully we’ll be like, through with this by a couple of months, we should be able to solve this problem also.

 

Will  13:14  

How can I ask how you think you’ll solve it, because that sounds quite a hard thing to be able to-

 

Dhiraj  13:22  

So, I mean, one of the, one of the reason that holds back is if we are creating art out of waste, and we are packaging using, which is not waste, but we are packaging, say, using thermal coal or bubble wrap or something, but still, it’s not guaranteed that the artefact will be intact. So so that’s, that’s a challenge that we are facing.

 

Will  13:52  

I can imagine. I guess. I’m just just it’s, art is a difficult one, isn’t it? Because I I was going to say, Oh yeah, but what about the travel that goes from a to b, then you’ve got the carbon emissions for those for that travel. So therefore that sustainability, but actually, I did you did you hear, um, you know, Amazon, the, the company that is Jeff Bezos, the owner of it said that he was going to give $10 billion to for sustainable stuff, which is a huge amount of money. And there was a thought piece written on medium. You know, that website where people write quite a lot of stuff. And he, I think it was he, he or she was saying that they thought $2 billion of that should go into the artists hands. And because the with what you’re doing and how you’re doing it is communicating a message that can hit so much further and has a much broader reach than just putting money into technology? You know, it’s because you will hit people’s hearts and you will hit people’s minds therefore, you will have more of an impact with the work that you’re doing.

 

Dhiraj  15:25  

So so we have initiated with Amazon Handmade, but a there’s some some people that is required and I think in a month or two that will be sorted and let’s see how it goes with Etsy, Etsy and Amazon Handmade both what we are trying to tie up with.

 

Will  15:44  

Okay, I didn’t realize that Amazon did-

 

Dhiraj  15:47  

Amazon has a section called as Amazon Handmade, where additions especially like something that you have handcrafted you can ship it but but you I mean, it’s too early for me to comment on on that section.

 

Will  16:04  

So it’s similar to Etsy?

 

Dhiraj  16:06  

True. Yes.

 

Will  16:08  

Okay, because I know Etsy. I’ve got a few friends that sell stuff through Etsy. And, in the UK, but they ship all over the world with [inaudible] brilliant, and you were talking before that you have a partner in crime and your big critic. Who is that?

 

Dhiraj  16:28  

He is my son, he’s Aryan. And yeah, I mean, he is interested now as an interesting fact. Like, when I was in school, I didn’t allow my my mom or anybody in my home to throw anything. Like I could pick up from the trash bag and I, I would hide it somewhere. And I used to say, like, I like create something out of it. Don’t Don’t throw it. So as history repeats, now he’s telling me like don’t throw anything and I’ll do something. And for, for me, it’s a reward. Something, something that he has to say like, don’t discard this. I’ll make something out of it.

 

Will  17:05  

Brilliant, what sort of things is he making?

 

Dhiraj  17:08  

He’s too young to do something. But yeah, he he’s fond of superheroes. So he is fond of superheroes and he’s trying to make something some sci fi object. Which he claims it belongs to Iron Man or Captain America.

 

Will  17:26  

Brilliant. What does your wife think of all of this?

 

Dhiraj  17:29  

She thinks like, there was one crazy person in house and now they’re two.

 

Will  17:36  

Brilliant and I can imagine yeah, I can. I’m just emphathizing to my own other half and thinking what she would-

 

Dhiraj  17:45  

Okay. Majority of the house like the majority is for the junkyard and minority is like [inaudible] yeah, the majority rules now.

 

Will  17:57  

I can imagine. I wonder what your garden looks like. Oh, look, I brought this back. Brilliant! I’m so pleased you brought that.

 

Dhiraj  18:05  

Exactly, exactly. Exactly. So she doesn’t know like, come in what’s there in my drawer, and it’s lying since long.

 

Will  18:17  

Awesome. Thank you so much for being on today. I think it’s [inaudible] it’s such a great mission. And it’s such a great thing that you’re doing. And it’s just looking at the world in a different way, isn’t it? And looking at what we have around us and how we can reuse that. And so thank you for doing that. And thanks for talking to me today.

 

Dhiraj  18:45  

Thanks, thanks for having me. Really pleasure to speak to you, awesome experience really.

 

Will  18:51  

Well, we’ll put up your websites and any social media stuff on the websites and thank you very much. Thank you so much for listening to the end of this episode of the Green Elements podcast. Do take a moment and share this with your friends and colleagues to rate and review the podcast. Wherever you get your podcasts. I’d love to know what has been your biggest takeaway from this conversation? What are you going to do differently? Please share your thoughts across social media and tag us so we can see them to at g_podcast for links and show notes for this episode, visit our website greenelement.co.uk/podcast. Thank you again. I hope you’ll join me on the next episode and together we can help create a better world.

 

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