We talked to Kunal M. Patel, Strategic Director at Copper Clothing Ltd, about pure everlasting protection clothing and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kunal M. Patel: Thankfully, all is well so far – I feel grateful that we are in an age where technology has allowed us to keep some form of normality workwise and social interaction during lockdown over Zoom, Starleaf, Facetime, etc. Having once been quite skeptical when I first came across the anti-microbial properties of copper, during the pandemic I equipped my family with copper gloves and masks having seen the tangible evidence of its anti-viral capabilities.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you joined Copper Clothing.
Kunal M. Patel: Copper Clothing is one of the businesses I am involved in which I am most passionate about. It not only provided me with some of the best learnings in dealing with challenges of bringing credibility to a new, exciting, potentially transformational technology but also from an interesting perspective it bridged my interest in the healthcare & life sciences sector with the hands-on desire to build and grow a brand from scratch.
This has uniquely allowed me to draw on my experiences and operational skill-set developed across my career to date which stems from working in Investment Banking through to growing a franchise operation in the Quick Service Restaurant and (most recently) Health & Fitness space.
How does Copper Clothing innovate?
Kunal M. Patel: Copper Clothing is one of the leading companies to recognize the oligodynamic properties of copper and its untapped potential as a widely used anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal tool. What started as a consumer goods e-commerce platform has fast evolved into a potentially life-saving range of medical devices being developed to help reduce the spread of infections and disease.
To bring about the credibility and trust that the technology deserves, Copper Clothing has carried out a vast amount of lab testing and live human clinical research. This includes successfully reducing infection rates in clinical studies independently run by the NHS Croydon University Trust, which highlights the potential effectiveness of such an innovation. Our tests show copper-infused products can destroy 99.9% of bacteria, viruses (including various strains of coronavirus including SARS-Cov 2), and fungi within minutes.
Our objective is to integrate the power of copper into everyday products, starting specifically with the medical sector, where we can significantly improve patient care whilst reducing the cost-burden for all involved.
Antimicrobial Products include:
- Wound dressings
- Face masks
- Compression Gloves
- Compression socks
- Bed linen
- Bespoke products
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Kunal M. Patel: One positive of the Covid-19 pandemic is that it has helped to further highlight why this type of medical innovation is needed. We pivoted to create face masks and gloves to help prevent the spread of the virus, however, one of the biggest challenges we are attacking head-on is the fight against antimicrobial resistance and hospital-acquired infections. Our copper-infused technology is showcasing a vast amount of independently tested data and evidence to highlight this could be used as a front-line preventative measure to reduce the dependency on antibiotics and improve patient care in a cost-effective, eco-friendly and sustainable manner.
On the downside, the pandemic has presented Copper Clothing with some significant challenges, slowing down the ability for us to move with speed on the pipeline of product development. The sheer backlogs of testing at specialist tested laboratories through to our next set of clinical trials with the NHS are proving to be difficult challenges to overcome down to the uncertainty around when normality will resume. The knock-on effect of delays to testing or research development like we are experiencing now could normally be a major concern when cash is not properly managed.
We, like many other businesses, have also been faced with challenges as a result of the travel ban preventing us from meeting our various manufacturing and distribution partners in different countries. Technology and the availability of communication platforms have allowed us to keep in touch, but I think sometimes there is nothing that can beat a real face-to-face meeting especially when dealing with new technology like Copper Clothings. All businesses have been impacted in some way, and we are proud of how our team has adapted to support our customers.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Kunal M. Patel: In the following ways;
- Allocation of financial resources: There are always many opportunities to pursue, but being a young start-up where there is a finite amount of resources, it is even more important to be very focused on how you distribute your resources, in terms of both financial commitments and even your time.
- Time management: I often find that during the daytime I am being bombarded with phone calls and emails so most of my planning and strategizing along with data analysis and research happens between the hours of midnight and 3 am so as not to get distracted.
- Outsource manufacturing: Our ultimate goal is to make the product range affordable and approachable for all. Especially given the unique proposition of the technology to help reduce the spread of infections in both a consumer and clinical setting. Copper Clothing has been fortunate to develop relationships across several countries to diversify its supply chain risk. However, in such a pandemic the issues of having to manufacture parts of the finished goods abroad could have caused a major concern if everything was developed and manufactured in one place. The pandemic has stressed the importance of finding more partners within the UK who would be willing to work with our technology.
- Copper Clothing has been the most challenging business I have been involved with to date given the added complexity of bringing about a change in the mindset that such innovation can exist and be proven with the right accreditation. Despite the hurdles I have faced it has been thoroughly enjoyable and hoping it will continue to serve me well when I am advising across the other businesses I work across.
Advice to other SMEs/ start-ups
Kunal M. Patel: One of the key things I would recommend it for business owners to have a clear focus and direction. Focussing on one area properly, rather than having too many things going at once. For instance, when building an eCommerce business, I’ve learned that it’s important to stagger the flow of products. Contrary to what people might think, having a wide variety of goods can work against you because focussing across 20-30 different products dilutes the power and ability to grow aggressively.
On the other hand, a “slower-flow” strategy, allows you to bring customers on your business journey with you, allowing time for them to buy into your ethos and brand, as well as playing an integral role in shaping what products and services you launch next based on real tangible feedback and data points, which should help improve the growth and success of the business.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Kunal M. Patel: We are using several tools from Microsoft teams to communicate and track, Starleaf & Zoom to plan, strategize and review, Power BI to analyze and evaluate, and Shopify, Instagram, Facebook, Google Adwords to drive transactions for growth.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kunal M. Patel: Our largest competitors are mainly US-based. We remain the key player in the UK. Tommie Copper and Copper Compression are creating some good things in the fitness/compression space. But we stand out as we have access to both the consumer and medical spaces. We also provide bespoke services to entities that are looking to incorporate copper-infused technology into their existing businesses. In 2017, we set-up Copper Defence, a Copper Clothing brand, February 2017 specifically to build these strategic partnerships.
Our goal is to increase the amounts of peer-reviewed research we can provide to overcome regulatory hurdles within the medical sector. We also make sure to be guided by good ethics and values. In business, my word is my bond. On a personal level, I stay in the game by approaching any role with the hands-on attitude that no job is beneath me – I look to get involved and learn about all facets of the business in order the better understand the business requirements to drive growth. I think every business leader should be able to carry out and understand every role within the business to best drive efficiencies and ensure quality control.
Your final thoughts?
Kunal M. Patel: Copper has the real potential to reduce some of the burden on healthcare institutions around the world, including our NHS. The main challenge we face is that healthcare innovations of this kind are not as well supported in the UK as they are in other countries like the US. For example, we have seen our scientific research which was carried out and signed off by notable independent global specialist testing institutions being questioned by non-science background risk teams at Shopify. Such hurdles have prevented us from being able to state facts and help people understand that such technology not only exists but is affordable and accessible without the need to rely solely on vaccines, antibiotics, etc. Whilst we respect the need for caution about product claims, we now have a gap where gatekeepers do not have the essential knowledge to be able to understand specialist testing. This is undoubtedly holding back progress and needs to be addressed.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all that humans are not completely bullet-proof. The immediate impact on the health and livelihoods of people around the globe, and then the impact this will present on the global economy. With a drug-resistant infection crisis looming it is important to look to innovations that can solve this issue in ways we haven’t yet adopted, such as using medical devices infused with materials like copper.
Collaboration across the medical and healthcare industry is needed to ensure innovative solutions can gain the approvals required in a timely manner and join the fight in tackling current and future public health threats.
About Copper Clothing?
Kunal M. Patel: Copper Clothing is an award-winning UK health-tech company, pioneering the development of copper-infused products. Its goal is to reduce the spread of infectious diseases through its patented technology. Using the sustainable, safe, and chemical-free properties of copper provides a natural solution to prevent the spread of diseases. It creates a range of high quality, durable, and affordable antimicrobial solutions – from face masks and pyjamas to bedsheets and blankets. Copper Clothing also helps industries to adopt anti-microbial technology by infusing copper into their existing product ranges.
Copper Clothing also works closely with healthcare bodies such as the NHS, academics, and globally recognized research institutions from the University of Southampton to the University of Bath. All its tests on copper infused fabrics have been carried out to ISO standards at globally accredited laboratories around the world.