Brick-making is one of the most unorganized sectors in India. Every year, India produces over 200 billion bricks from 100,000 brick kilns. This kiln-dominated industry is also, according to the United Nations Environment Program, the biggest industrial consumer of coal in India—over 25 million tons of coal per year. To be clear, brick-making also does not have any similarity to the steel or cement industry, where there is a clear structure with dominant players.
Sourabh Bansal, a graduate from IIT Kharagpur, was one of those who had identified these markers when he was looking for a business idea right after his graduation in the year 2007. “I wanted to look at creating efficiencies across environment, labor and supply chain in the building materials space,” says Bansal. “In that space, the bricks industry had the most number of these inefficiencies,” he says. Having seen what India’s brick-makers were doing, Bansal looked at processes being used in other parts of the world. Here, he found out about Autoclaved Aerated Concrete blocks (AAC blocks). An alternative to clay bricks, these bricks were first developed back in the 1920s in Sweden.
An AAC block, Bansal says, can be 70 percent lighter and up to nine to ten times bigger than a clay brick. They are also well known for their thermal insulation properties. “These blocks are porous in nature. There is a honey comb-like structure inside the block. This is responsible for its light weight and the thermal insulation it provides,” Bansal explains. While these bricks were being manufactured in India, Bansal found that they were primarily being used for high-cost niche projects.