Geena Rait completed her PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Imperial in 2020. During her time at the College, Geena danced for the Imperial College Bhangra team (2015-2016) and was on the committee for the Imperial College Punjabi Society (2016-2017). She also made use of the extensive courses Imperial has to offer and undertook evening and lunchtime courses in modern art and philosophy.

Geena took part in a Plastic Hackathon in 2019 with Imperial College and Innovate UK and came in second place. Find out more about the 2019 Plastic Hackathon.

More recently, in October 2020 Geena won an essay competition in association with Imperial College and The Times, and has contributed articles to Red Box for the last two months, with one more to come in December. Read the Imperial News article on Geena’s win.

Since graduating, Geena has also set up her own business, @garmi._ on Instagram. We spoke to Geena about her time studying at Imperial and beyond.

Can you tell us about your studies at Imperial?

My PhD was related to fracture toughness and constraint measurements in nuclear grade steels. I was based in the Mechanical Engineering department and it was a steep learning curve for me after coming from a materials science background. I got to experience conferences and student competitions and broaden my knowledge base significantly whilst I was a student here.

What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?

I would say that I developed a high level of resilience. Undertaking a PhD can be tough and developing the skills to keep going and persevere is something that I believe will serve me well for all future endeavours.

What is your fondest memory of your time here?

I would say the best part about my time at Imperial was the lifelong friendships I made and the experience of living and studying in London.

What is your favourite place at Imperial and why?

My favourite place at Imperial would have to be Queen's Tower. It is such an iconic piece of architecture for the University and I used to love having my lunch on its steps in summertime!

Can you tell us a bit about the company you’ve started?

My business is called ‘garmi’. Garmi creates quality handcrafted products from 100% recycled South Asian fabrics. The fabric is saved from landfill and something beautiful is made at the same time.

I first had the idea for garmi in 2019 but I didn’t feel that I could dedicate the time to pursue it as I was nearing the end of my PhD. After completing my research in March 2020, and entering a national lockdown not soon after, I suddenly had all the time I needed to develop and launch my idea. I was inspired to tackle this unique issue after seeing just how much fabric waste was generated by a single home seamstress. This fabric waste is primarily in the form of fabric offcuts, which are often too small to be used for further garment manufacture. Interestingly, this form of fabric waste is something that is generated up and down the UK in many South Asian households and by South Asian tailors.

I am passionate about the environment and sustainability and so for me garmi provides a solution to a unique fabric waste issue. It also provides a platform for promoting South Asian culture, through beautiful and vibrant fabrics, to a whole new audience. Some of the products manufactured include: bags, scrunchies and face masks and in this way South Asian culture can be incorporated into everyday life and fashion.

Follow Geena's business on Instagram at @garmi._.

How has Imperial helped you in your career so far?

During my PhD I decided to make use of a graduate school course which was entitled ‘Mini MBA’. This was a really insightful course which I believe has helped in some part with forming my business. Find out more about courses offered by the Graduate School.

What are your plans for the future?

My immediate plan for the future of garmi is to launch my website in the new year. This will allow people to browse and purchase online. I am also hoping to create a platform for the public to donate their waste fabric, so that even more fabric can be saved from landfill. In the long term I would love for my business to have grown significantly so that most South Asian fabric waste can be processed in this way.

What would your advice be for fellow entrepreneurs?

My advice for fellow entrepreneurs would be to explore your ideas to the fullest and to not be deterred from pursuing them, especially if you are passionate about them. I think it is easy to disregard ideas as not being good enough but ultimately you don’t want to look back and regret not pursuing something. It’s always better to give it a go and see what happens!

What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumnus? 

I am proud to be associated with a University that is known around the world for its research and for the extraordinary alumni that it produces.

What one word or phrase would you use to describe Imperial alumni?