Interview with Jinali Mody, the Winner of the $1 Million Hult Prize 2023

15 Feb 2024 separate icon ~ 5 minutes read
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Interview with Jinali Mody, the Winner of the $1 Million Hult Prize 2023

15 Feb 2024 separate icon ~ 5 minutes read
GTW impact myOnvent sustainability

Welcome to the world of Banofi Leather, where innovation meets sustainability in the most unexpected way. In this blog post, we delve into the journey of Jinali Mody, the visionary mind behind the Banofi Leather eco-conscious venture and the winner of the 2023 Global Talent Award and the $1 million Hult Prize!

Jinali Mody

Fresh off her triumph at Startup Yale’s 2022 Sustainable Venture Prize and armed with a Master’s in Sustainability from Yale University, Jinali has embarked on a mission to redefine the leather industry. Having honed her skills at McKinsey & Company, she brings a pragmatic approach to the table. The Banofi Leather solution she crafted not only boasts a remarkable 90% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to traditional leather but also addresses the pervasive issue of banana crop waste in India. 

Join us as we sit down with Jinali for an insightful interview, where she shares the inspiration behind Banofi Leather, the challenges she faced, and the positive impact it’s making on responsible consumption and production. Discover how this circular and innovative solution is disrupting the industry, creating not just fashion accessories but a sustainable movement with each handbag, belt, notebook, and more. It’s time to explore the transformative power of Banofi Leather and embrace a greener future.

What inspired you to start Banofi?

The reason we started is because I’m somebody who cares about sustainability, always cares about climate change, has always cared about fashion as well, and as a consumer I really struggled to find sustainable alternatives. And when you study sustainability, you often know about all of the problems and all the downstream impacts of toxic chemicals, dyeing, and leather tanning. I knew about these issues but I still cared about fashion. So I wanted to work on creating alternatives that could really help transform the industry at scale. And so I think if we transform the material core components then you can make a real difference at scale.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in establishing and growing Banofi, and how did you overcome them? 

There are a couple of challenges. Taking that first step was difficult. There are many questions floating on your mind. “How do you start this right?”, “What are the next steps like?” A lot of it was also about finding the right team. While working together, we learned about how to build a team. The other challenge is R&D which is always challenging.There are highs, and there are lows, and you have to try a lot of things. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, when it’s an R&D heavy-business, it’s sort of a hit-or-miss kind of situation with trial and error. 

What has happened with the Banofi project since you won the Global Talent Award?

I think what really helped with the Global Talent Week  was the infusion of capital into the business, something that was very helpful. Moreover, it gave us a sense of validation. We got to talk to a lot of people and got to work on a pitch together through the Global Talent Week. So there were a lot of big changes that happened post the global talent week. 

Congratulations on winning the Hult Prize. How will the prize money help you scale your business?

When we received the Global Talent Award, we used it for machinery, which was really crucial for us, and which was also very helpful for getting the Hult Prize. We are yet to receive  the prize money and are currently working on the specifics of the procedure of getting it. Most likely we will receive the prize at some point this year, maybe towards the end of the year, once we finalize the different milestones and other specifics. When we receive the money, we will invest it in R&D and in a small factory scale-up as well.

Banofi Leather

What are your plans for the future growth and expansion of Banofi? Are there any new projects or initiatives on the horizon for your company?

Banofi and commercializing our plant-based leather is the focus. Currently we’re trying to talk to brands and we have some exciting pilot projects coming up with brands. Our collaborations are still in the initial phase but we’re in conversations with a lot of luxury fashion brands and a few automotive companies. It’s all in development, it’s all in process.

As the winner of both the Global Talent Award and the Hult prize, you are an inspiration to many others. What is the best advice you have for aspiring impact entrepreneurs?

I have a couple of pieces of advice for young social entrepreneurs. The best time to start is in university, or while you’re in university, and I didn’t know this before, but the amount of support there is for student entrepreneurs is very different, you don’t get that kind of support once you are no longer a student. Make use of the time when you’re still a student, when there are so many opportunities. The second big advice is, when you have an idea, try and take it to the next level. Try and build some traction whether it’s a product, whether it’s sales. Just try and start building something concrete. Thirdly, ask for help, there are so many people who can help. So just ask for help, keep talking to people, keep learning from people. Really, find people who are in the industry, find people who are not in the industry, find people who have started companies before and just pitch your idea to them. Let them pull calls, let them give you advice. That, I think, is really important. 

What has been the best advice ever given to you? 

I think the best advice we’ve gotten is try and learn from trying. For example, if you’re making a decision, you can spend like 5 hours thinking about it, or you can try and then see what happens, and then learn from actual results. Try and fail, or try and succeed, but basically just try. Instead of thinking “This won’t work because xyz,” just try; if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but if it works, it works! When you are a startup or a young company, it’s better not to overthink, and it’s better to just go out there and try and learn from trial and error. That’s I think the best advice ever given to me. 


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