Placeholder canvas

Designing Sustainability

A free-wheeling conversation covering Sushmita’s diverse body of work and her thoughts around industrial design, circular economy, sustainability, game design with recycled materials and designing for water equity.

Keep in touch and stay inspiring everyday

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

In this episode of Aedge, Sushmita Charlu, a designer with a multi-disciplinary approach, chats with Madhavi Nadig, the CTO of Adeptic Creative Labs. It is a free-wheeling conversation covering Sushmita’s diverse body of work and her thoughts around industrial design, circular economy, sustainability, game design with recycled materials and designing for water equity.

  • Unable to choose between arts and science, Sushmita chose to study Design where she didn’t have to give up either.
  • She graduated as a Product & Interface Designer from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, studying industrial design and UX design.
  • Her mentor kindled her interest in sustainability with a book called “Cradle to Cradle”, which talks about moving away from a linear economy to a circular economy.
  • An ideal design is one which lives perpetually, maybe in different forms over time, but nothing is wasted.
  • Cradle, here, is a metaphor for birth. Products are (re)born with a new form once the previous form is obsolete.
  • Sushmita has found her ikigai in industrial design and creating a circular economy 
  • As an industrial designer, she looks at products as a service to people.
  • At every stage from production to packaging to delivery, as an industrial designer, she considers how to create a circular economy.
  • India had a strong circular economy in the past, when repairing and renting products were the norm.
  • Pride in product ownership led to the collapse of the service economy.
  • Now, with renewed interest, both consumers and companies are realising the benefits of a circular economy.
  • Industrial designers must consider the locally available systems and service economies while designing for that region.
  • In her current role at Good Business Lab, Sushmita focuses more on social sustainability than environmental sustainability.
  • She designs interventions for blue collar workers in the space of physical & mental health and safety.
  • The interventions are created with a human-centric approach, delivered as a service, not as acts of charity.
  • She incentivises businesses to invest in such interventions and helps them recognise the business returns from them.
  • As a non-profit labour innovation lab, Good Business Lab measures the effectiveness of such interventions using quantitative research techniques like randomised control trials.
  • Having government-mandated Environment, Social and corporate Governance (ESG) norms pushed corporates to invest in sustainability initiatives whose results are not seen in the short-term.
  • Greenwashing is easy. But real change requires time, strategy, innovation and prioritisation.
  • Madhavi wants to know the hurdles preventing the adoption of sustainable alternatives. Sushmita quips that she has opened a can of tofu and shrimp!
  • Though sustainable alternatives are more expensive right now, when sustainable businesses are supported and encouraged to scale, in the future, they should become more affordable.
  • Millennials & Gen-Z are currently open to paying the premium for sustainability
  • Blue collar workers, who are busy earning their living, will opt for the cheapest alternative.
  • Sustainable businesses can be encouraged with monetary investments and hyperlocal consumption.
  • Flatheads, a sustainable brand of shoes, received a lot of support from the public after the founder appeared on Shark Tank.
  • Shark Tank is showcasing many sustainable businesses from across India and it’s heartening to see them get funded.
  • Sushmita calls millennials the “ready-made generation”, the first generation to have free access to and consume mass-produced goods.
  • Madhavi observes that there are fewer people around to repair things today.
  • The Japanese art of kintsugi values restoring things. But restoring things today is tedious.
  • Sushmita shares that this is due to planned obsolescence, a strategy adopted by many businesses.
  • Tech companies continue to take back your used gadgets while pushing you to upgrade by purchasing newer gadgets.
  • Sushmita’s entrepreneurship journey with Vrtta includes creating an Icelandic strategy game called Hnefatafl using reconstituted tetrapacks for Kavade Toy Hive. It was an effort to combine the ancient with the modern.
  • Madhavi loves the new-found focus on Indian games. She appreciates the revival of ancient Indian games and the creation of new ones, like Hampi, with artfully created pieces and minimal packaging.
  • Sushmita prefers a minimalistic style which is almost a blank canvas and adds a pop of colour using rich fabrics. She chooses long-lasting furniture which will keep her carbon footprint low in future as well.
  • Sushmita was concerned that Ikea’s entry into India would kill the local furniture market. But she’s observed a trend where people get ideas from Ikea’s curation, but purchase locally.
  • How does one start a career in design? What skills must they acquire?
  • Sushmita shares her experience of up-skilling with Offsite, a program about Industrial Design.
  • In the Bali Fab Fest, Sushmita and her inter-disciplinary group designed a solution to tackle the water crisis that Bali faces as a tourist island.
  • Sonam Wangchuk recently went on a Climate Fast to draw attention to the water shortage in Ladakh, due to climate change.
  • To promote Water Equity, Sushmita’s Fab Fest team open-sourced their design with clear instructions to replicate it locally. They have received some funding too.
  • Sushmita advises new designers to figure out what they love and pursue it relentlessly.
  • She is working on social and sustainable design projects with her international peers from the Offsite course.
  • Her pet project involves creating a circular economy for coffee.
  • Since Sushmita has interviewed designers as the co-host of the Design Lota podcast, she had hoped there would be no bad karma in this one.

Sushmita is a designer with a multi-disciplinary approach to her work. Her work lies at the intersection of creative problem solving, technology and envisioning a sustainable (present and) future. Sushmita is currently a Senior Design Associate at Good Business Lab. She is also a co-founder & designer at Vrtta, a collaborative focused on sustainability and craft.

This podcast is brought to you by Adeptic Creative Labs with support from the team at Clearly Blue Digital.

Write to us at

Follow us on LinkedIn at Adeptic Creative Labs and Clearly Blue Digital.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe on your favourite channel