Embracing Sustainability: A Journey of Impact and Learning

Maneesh Chintalapudi

This summer, I interned with Jumanji, an impact-driven start-up studio based in Paris, France.

The studio is dedicated to bringing products and services that drive the world towards a more sustainable future. Among the suite of products and services the studio is working on is an appliance rental service called HomeCycle. HomeCycle’s mission is to reduce e-waste and grow a circular economy, making consumption practices more sustainable. 

The team at HomeCycle was small: a CEO, a partner of the start-up studio and an intern splitting their time between multiple other start-up ideas.

Joining this small team meant I worked on everything with the CEO.

My tasks ranged from building a marketing and growth strategy to developing creative designs for marketing to setting up processes and operations that can scale. 

I have worked for start-ups and non-profits in the impact space before my time at INSEAD, but HomeCycle was the first organisation I worked with that brought together seemingly contradictory aspects of business and impact.

This experience at HomeCycle and Jumanji showed me the power of purpose-driven entrepreneurship. It reshaped my perspective on how businesses can sustain and grow while improving the world. 

As I reflect on my summer internship experience, three key learnings will stay with me: 

Staying true to purpose

I am no stranger to the clickbait messages used in digital marketing. Many marketers would not bat an eye before using clickbait messaging to get new customers.

HomeCycle’s CEO, Alex, was different. Alex’s mission to educate people and encourage them to adopt sustainable practices was core to our marketing strategy and messaging.

The purpose-driven messaging worked.

We acquired customers just the same as our competitors, if not quicker. And we acquired customers who resonated with our product which promised better retention.

I realised there is a middle ground between responsible marketing and meaningful impact; true intent and purpose hold great significance and can support a business's economic growth.  

Building for the future

With a small team working on multiple things, meetings were not streamlined. Discussions would derail as new problems and doubts about unrelated tasks popped up.

It came upon me to develop processes that could help the team put order to the chaos.

I developed streamlined processes for the various work streams.

As I began to employ the processes and personally drive the meetings, I realised the importance of building self-sustaining processes for when I am not around to drive the process. 

Over the last few weeks of the internship, I put in structures and operational frameworks that would not rely on a single individual to drive the processes. This approach doesn’t just enhance teamwork and streamline operations, but it also fortifies the company’s ability to weather expansion and shifts.

Learning beyond borders; Europe setting an example for sustainable Practices

Outside of work, the beautiful city of Paris provided an inspiring backdrop to my summer. The city's bustling energy blended seamlessly with the ethos of sustainability that HomeCycle championed.

I observed how the French and European regions are poised to embrace eco-friendly lifestyles and initiatives.

From the sustainable modes of micro-mobility I used every day in Paris to a budding impact start-up ecosystem all across Europe, the European region is setting an example for the global business community that sustainable practices can be both profitable and impactful.

My time in Paris reminded me that sustainable practices are not limited to boardroom discussions but woven into daily life's fabric.

This internship experience was supported by the INSEAD Hoffmann Institute Impact Internship Stipend and gifts from alumni.