DUBAI // An entrepreneur wants to turn the dry cleaning industry green by replacing its ubiquitous wire hangers with recyclable ones made from cardboard.
To convince laundries to use them, Asim Amin Nalkhande, the 29-year-old Indian founder of HangOn, said he would distribute them for free.
To recoup his costs, he plans to sell advertising in the solid space in the middle of the hanger.
He already has deals to distribute two million hangers each month.
The idea, used in the US and other countries, has earned the endorsement of the Environmental Centre for Arab Towns (Ecat), a semi-governmental organisation based in Dubai.
Ecat was cofounded in 2005 by the Kuwait-based, non-profit Arab Towns Organisation and Dubai Municipality, where its offices are housed, to raise environmental awareness in the region.
The Ecat director, Mohamed Al Noori, hopes the hangers can be distributed to schools, malls and hotels in Dubai and eventually across the emirates.
"The idea is very simple and it will be a footstep for the rest to follow," he said. "Why have an empty hanger going out without any message?"
Mr Nalkhande has signed up laundries in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The companies that use his paper version may get a cut of any advertising revenue.
Mr Nalkhande and his business partner, an entrepreneur from Ireland, are now meeting advertising agencies. They are pitching the hangers as having a guaranteed viewership.
"The only way you're not going to see the ad is if you dress yourself with your eyes shut," Mr Nalkhande said.
The two friends used to meet monthly to share three start-up ideas each. Both had opened their first companies by the time they were 18.
Mr Nalkhande also helped manage family businesses such as restaurants. In 2006, he took a job at a major corporation and opened his own laundry on the side in 2009.
The hanger idea came to him as he grew dismayed by the heaps of wire hangers his laundry threw away.
A year ago, he began researching recyclable options, then quit his job to do it full time.
He found factories in China that made hangers from cardboard, non-chemical glues and dyes.
Mr Nalkhande experimented with different shapes, consulting his fellow laundry owners to see if they would use them.
Convincing them took 10 months, he said, adding that this "was the biggest challenge".
The eco-friendly hangers cost seven times more than wire, hence the need to sell advertising space.
The opportunities for adverts on hangers could be greater in the UAE than other countries because dry cleaning is common here, said Declan McCrohan, a business professor who taught at Zayed University before moving to Alfaisal University in Saudi Arabia.
He said government support for green initiatives, which has grown in recent years, would be crucial for this business.
This article has been corrected since original publication. A previous version misstated the number of hangers HangOn plans to distribute.