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Ashish Gadnis Of BanQu On Why They Are Embracing Slow Fashion and Renewable Consumption

An Interview With Monica Sanders

Given everything that is going on with our climate today. If your brand is not climate compliant, then you’re just another fast fashion company. Make sure that your entire supply chain and business operations are actively reducing greenhouse gas emissions to cool down the climate. It is our responsibility, together.

As ‘slow fashion’ grows in popularity, more fashion companies are jumping on the bandwagon. Renewable consumption has been gaining popularity for a while, as people recognize its importance, and many fashion companies want to be a part of this change. In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders in the fashion industry to discuss why they are embracing slow fashion and renewable consumption. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ashish Gadnis.

Ashish Gadnis is the Co-founder and CEO of BanQu (, a traceability solution that helps brands and manufacturers ensure their supply chains are equitable, resilient, and compliant. Ashish founded BanQu with the dream of helping brands drive for-profit, for-purpose business while ensuring supply chain contributors — down to the first laborer — are granted true visibility. When it comes to fashion and textile companies, Ashish has extensive experience helping leading fashion brands source and upcycle materials ethically, with the data needed to track their impact.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

Of course! My background is quite nontraditional for the typical tech CEO. I grew up in the slums of India in poverty where food was scarce and standing in ration lines was an everyday occurrence. It was a rough upbringing, but we were all just doing our best to survive, and it taught me a lot of grit and empathy that I lean on in my career today.

Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?

When I turned 18 my father told me that I had two options: to beg on the streets or learn to code. Unsurprisingly, I chose to code. I gradually worked my way up in a multinational tech company that outsourced to India and ultimately moved to Colombia, then Boston. In the USA, I continued to work in tech and startups, got an MBA, built and sold a couple tech startups. I was very fortunate to get executive education at the Harvard Kennedy School and named a YGL by the World Economic Forum. I was, and am, very lucky!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most interesting story of my career also happens to be the story that inspired the sustainability tech work I do today.

I was working as a volunteer CEO/coordinator for a USAID program in the Congo that was supporting local farmers through market-access, agronomy and micro-finance training. One of the farmers approached me — a mom of five — and asked how she could open a bank account. I was thrilled to help her begin to build her wealth!

I immediately took her to the local bank to get her all set up. We sat down with a bank teller who asked for proof of her work and crop sales and… she didn’t have any. This woman, this mama farmer, had worked tirelessly to produce crops that were feeding into global supply chains — food that we consume every day — was receipt-less, credit-less, and invisible. He told us “I can’t bank her. But I can bank you.” A little foreshadowing to the inspiration of our company name today.

It was at that moment I realized that true sustainability tech would need to be built in a way that not only benefited companies, but that — more importantly — benefited the supply chain workers with visibility, proof of their work, and adequate recognition, treatment, and pay. That day, I decided to find a way to leverage my tech expertise to help people just like that mama farmer.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Knowing your weaknesses.

Knowing your weaknesses just as much as your strengths is key to progressing personally and professionally. Oftentimes these two are interconnected, but both can teach us a lot. In the tech world, people love to play up their strengths, flaunt their confidence, “fake it until they make it.” And while there’s certainly a time and place for strong confidence, I learned very quickly working in impoverished conflict zones what my weaknesses were. And I learned to lean into them. The biggest weakness of mine I’ve learned is the difficulty of not knowing all the answers. It’s okay to say “I don’t know,” and it’s okay to lean on others that are smarter than me.

2. Willingness to “sit on the floor”.

Sitting on the floor — both physically & metaphorically — to me means being able to humbly meet people where they’re at and “get your hands dirty.” Never be too good to sit on the floor no matter where you are in your career. When working with some of the poorest farmers, I learned that sitting with them, helping them in the fields, getting to know them as people, and treating them with dignity were some of the most rewarding and important moments. No leader should ever be too good to “sit on the floor”.

3. Being okay with regret.

A career — and life — well-lived will have regrets. Regrets mean you tried, you failed, you tried again, you did your best, and you learned. People with regrets have a lot of deepness and empathy. I know my own regrets have been so character-building. My biggest regret to date is not being able to do more for the poorest and most vulnerable. But that regret propelled me to go into sustainability tech. And this regret also drives me to do my best to help underserved populations every day.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The combined product and mission of BanQu is — in my humble opinion — one of a kind, yielding real results with our partners. Our technology is helping enterprise companies across multiple industries to drive business that is both for-profit and for-purpose, through supply chain traceability.

I believe companies will continue to be held to higher sustainability standards. And I’m so grateful to be part of the tech that helps them get ahead of the curve while doing good for both people and planet.

My favorite story to share regarding BanQu’s impact is the story of Ida. Ida was a smallholder farmer in Zambia who was struggling to support her family and send her kids to school. She farmed barley that ultimately was used by one of our enterprise partners in their world-class beer. Thanks to our partner implementing our traceability system, Ida was able to begin building her wealth and credit as she was receiving digital receipts straight to her SMS phone. Just a year later, Ida was able to support her family and put all her kids through school. It was so amazing to see.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

I do! It’s a bit of a combination of quotes I’ve heard throughout my life: “The best kind of good is good without credit.” For me, this means helping those mama farmers like Ida in a way she never has to even know about me. Doing good isn’t about me. It’s not even about me feeling good. It’s about empowering people and changing systematic issues, with as much anonymity as possible.

Who is your fashion hero or heroine? Why?

Steve Jobs!

I know it’s cheesy, but once upon a time, I was spending tens of thousands of dollars on professional clothes, swanky shoes, shiny watches, etc.

After my personal wake-up call and in the early days of ideating what is now BanQu, I decided that I needed to “walk the talk” and drastically change my lifestyle to meet my ideals.

I now own 6 black shirts, 3 pairs of jeans, one pair of shoes, two pairs of glasses, one jean jacket, and one watch. Steve Jobs was a huge inspiration to me in the possibility of a tech CEO having a simple, no-nonsense wardrobe. The sustainability benefits of such a simple closet and style are a huge motivator for me too.

Why did you decide to create and use a sustainable business model for your fashion brand?

When BanQu first began, we were heavily focused on agricultural sustainability — i.e., helping food & beverage companies sustainably and ethically source their ingredients.

Since then, we’ve applied our same traceability tech and sustainability dashboards to multi-industry solutions, which include the fashion industry.

Fashion and textile manufacturing industries are inherently some of the most wasteful and problematic industries when it comes to sustainable sourcing. They’re extremely riddled with water waste, human rights abuses, and overproduction and consumption that end up in landfills and oceans.

Helping fashion companies drive for-profit, for-purpose business through traceability and more sustainable practices is the most practical, effective way I know we can positively impact the industry, and world.

What are three things we should all know about “slow fashion”?

  1. Slow fashion is possible.

A lot of people see slow fashion as being impractical or too difficult. And in many ways, in our consumer-driven economy today, it is! But believing and knowing it’s possible — having that brilliant imagination to create a better world — is a psychological shift we must take in order to achieve it.

2. Slow fashion is first and foremost a corporate responsibility.

I greatly applaud the conscious consumer. The one who thrifts and repairs their clothing. Who goes to great efforts to feel good and look good while doing good. However, most sustainability issues in the fashion world come from corporations. We must stop putting all the sustainability onus on consumers and start holding businesses to higher standards if we want real change.

3. Slow fashion takes a willingness to change and the data to prove it.

As a company, it can be difficult to change the way you do things when the status quo is great (for you). Maybe you don’t mind not really knowing where your textiles come from, because they’re always cheap and on time. Or maybe you don’t feel the need to start an upcycling incentive for your consumers — because it would require too many resources upfront. Or maybe tracking sustainability efforts and production data feels too unimportant on your long list of to-do’s. But to truly claim a “sustainable, slow fashion” approach you’ve got to be willing to change, and track data-driven goals.

Can you please explain how it can be fashionable to buy less, wait a little longer, or even repair clothing?

Fashion has become synonymous with fast, trending styles that you must keep up with to be fashionable and relevant. While fashion trends may naturally change over time, the rate we’re seeing them move these days is completely driven by businesses, consumerism, and money.

At its heart, fashion is a way to clothe yourself while expressing your taste and/or making a statement. Investing in pieces that you love, and that you can love for a long time, is one of the best ways to express yourself and your care for the planet. Nowadays, there are also a lot of great thrift stores, corporate upcycling programs, and apps you can use to source and buy great, used clothing you can love for a long time.

Ultimately, the most sustainable fashion is wearing and repairing what you already own. Second, is buying secondhand. So, for the conscious consumer, I’d recommend starting with small changes to how you consume clothing, getting better and better over time. And when you do need to purchase first-hand, try your best to research and purchase from ethical, sustainable brands.

Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Slow Fashion Brand”?

  1. Your supply chain needs to be traceable and transparent.

Today, there are thousands of smallholder cotton farmers who are completely invisible in your fashion and textile supply chains. And my recommendation is that you want them to be visible. This is how you’re going to create traceability and transparency.

2. Your entire business model needs to be compliant when it comes to new climate regulations.

Given everything that is going on with our climate today. If your brand is not climate compliant, then you’re just another fast fashion company. Make sure that your entire supply chain and business operations are actively reducing greenhouse gas emissions to cool down the climate. It is our responsibility, together.

3. Ensure your entire business ecosystem is equitable.

If the t-shirt you sell was made in Bangladesh by a Rohingya refugee, and they weren’t paid a living, fair wage or were working under forced labor, then your supply chain — your business — is not truly equitable or sustainable. True sustainability means ensuring all aspects of your business — especially your procurement and sourcing — align with your sustainability objectives and goals.

4. Take customer loyalty from an impact perspective.

By very definition, if you are a slow fashion company, then you don’t expect your consumers to buy and throw away your products like what typically happens in the fast fashion industry. What you really want is to create loyalty in your customer’s mind that’s tied to your traceability, equitability, and climate commitments. That’s how you’re going to be a slow fashion pioneer. Because your customer loyalty will be firmly and intentionally rooted in your impact.

5. Run a for-profit, for-purpose business.

A lot of companies make the mistake of starting CSR objectives and sustainability initiatives in silos that are completely disconnected from their business model. If you really want to build a long-lasting business, then your profit and purpose must go hand-in-hand. Sustainability and purpose should be baked into your entire business model to ensure that as you grow, you grow sustainably.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Great question! I would love to start a “Do you know who….?” movement. Meaning, everyone — corporations, brands, people, consumers, etc… — ask themselves the question of whether they know who was involved in the creation of the products they use and consume every day.

I.e., Do I know who grew my food? Do I know who dyed my pants? Do I know who farmed the wool in my sweater? Do I know who picked up the recycled plastic in my water bottle?

Bringing that personal, human consideration into consumption is such a huge driver for more sustainable and ethical practices — both for businesses and consumers.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me, Ashish Gadnis, on LinkedIn. I’m always happy to connect. Let’s make this world a better place, together!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Thank you for this opportunity to share ideas for a better, more sustainable world!

About the Interviewer: Monica Sanders JD, LL.M, is the founder of “The Undivide Project”, an organization dedicated to creating climate resilience in underserved communities using good tech and the power of the Internet. She holds faculty roles at the Georgetown University Law Center and the Tulane University Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy. Professor Sanders also serves on several UN agency working groups. As an attorney, Monica has held senior roles in all three branches of government, private industry, and nonprofits. In her previous life, she was a journalist for seven years and the recipient of several awards, including an Emmy. Now the New Orleans native spends her time in solidarity with and championing change for those on the frontlines of climate change and digital divestment. Learn more about how to join her at:

Ashish Gadnis Of BanQu On Why They Are Embracing Slow Fashion and Renewable Consumption was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.