Glass talks to tech wizard Asad Hamir about his sustainable new stylish hardware brand Nolii

IN today’s age where everyone owns a smartphone, you’d think that phone accessory designs would have evolved beyond clunky cases and tangled charging wires, but unfortunately, it’s still a scenario we all find ourselves in. 

CEO of Nolii, Asad Hamir was all too familiar with this modern conundrum so he decided to put his business mind and passion for design to the test. 

Nolii’s range of seamless phone hardware offers smart solutions for day-to-day phone use. It boasts entirely unique designs, and its incredibly stylish appearance is appealing for the 

Hamir’s passion for design was ignited when he worked in an eyewear shop, and he has since had a successful portfolio of small businesses under his belt, one of which made an appearance on the hit BBC show Dragon’s Den.  

Glass caught up with the tech entrepreneur to chat about Nolii, the importance of sustainability in tech and all things design. 

Nolii accessories

How did you start your journey into tech?

I started a technology reseller business, and It’s funny because I did optometry at university. My family is from East Africa, and my mum is an optometrist and she was the only one in the family who had an education. My mum was like “why don’t you do optometry”, so I did, but I always loved tech because my dad was an electrical engineer. We always had tech in the house, and he was always deconstructing computers, but I think working in an eyewear shop and selling designer glasses gave me a taste of design.

I graduated in 2007 and started this tech reseller business in 2009. At that point, the smartphone market was releasing a new phone every year, and everyone was buying a new phone every year so I started reselling 02 phones to the community because it was the only network that worked in the area. I sold 4000 phones in the first year, and then I started working at their stores. It grew really fast, and it went from 2 of us to 200 people. It was a pure sales business. 

After this, I started an eyewear brand, and I went into business with the wrong people and I made a ton of mistakes. It was so different going into a creative business from a sales business. I was able to learn about industrial design, and I saw that were was a lot of research into problem-solving and not much actual design.

I thought wow, why has no one done this sort of process for tech. I was looking at my tech bag and it was a mess. There were cables everywhere and I was always out of power. I then went on google looking for an industrial designer and found Benjamin Hubert and we started making the product. 

What does Nolii mean?

Nolii = Nomadic, lifestyle, intelligence 

Nolii is built with a team of creatives. You found Benjamin Hubert on Google. How did you find the others?

A lot of it is just networking. So like some of the things I’ve always been good at, which is like selling and meeting people. Once we created the vision of Nolii, that drew a lot of people to us, and a lot of people then got interested in it. We had to prove that we could do it, because it’s no good creating the concepts. 

Nolii’s slick charging loop cable

What hurdles did you face while creating Nolii?

I went to sign off the final prototypes in 2018 just before the last design festival and they were a complete mess. I said to myself, “ok I’ve got to learn everything myself” and I took two to three months to do that. Eventually, I brought the right people in, but it took us a lot longer than expected, and then Covid-19 hit. We were supposed to launch in April 2020. We pushed through and now we’re just focusing on building the brand and reaching as many people as possible. 

From a visual perspective, the Nolii hardware is very chic. What inspired the look of the products?

Definitely the colour. What I saw in the market was a lot of mobile accessory brands being designed by a lot of men of the same ethnic group. When it came to designing colours for women they always did pink. I thought to myself, “these colours should be androgynous”.

Where’s the Acne Studios? Where’s the Cos equivalent? We wanted people to have those neutral colours and be able to customise them. Anker has around 95 different power banks, and that’s just not the Nolii way. The Nolii way is to start with the problem and make one great power bank. The Nolii couple battery is your everyday one, and the set battery is for longer use. 

How sustainable is Nolii?

The products are built to last. These are electrical products as far as EU laws and standards and there are specific regulations that mean you have to use certain materials such as plastic. The industry still hasn’t caught up. We’re now actually thinking about using more recycled aluminium and things like that. 

A lot of power products are ultrasonic welded, which leads to a lot of fires in recycling plants and it’s really hard to recycle them so they end up putting them in the incinerator. The lithium usually can’t be reused. With our ones you just take the top off, unscrew and deconstruct it which means you can take the lithium iron out and reuse it.

When it comes to the end of life, we’re thinking about the whole piece. Having my own sustainable tech brand is very focused on the design because first and foremost I want to make products that people are going to use and rely on without having to worry about buying another one. 

The second thought when it comes to sustainability is making sure the factory and workers are treated fairly. I’ve lived in China, and I’ve seen this on the front line. I know the workers, and I know how they’re treated. 

The bottom line is that electronics are not sustainable which is why it’s really important to look at it end to end. With materials, you can say that they’re sustainable and recyclable but they only need to be a by a certain percentage.

The set battery

The design of the set battery is so unique. Tell me the story behind it.

When I was working in stores I would see the same people coming in again and again at like five o’clock on a Wednesday because they had forgotten to charge their power bank. I was like, “why don’t you just charge your power bank?” and they would explain that it was just another cable that they needed to hold. I asked my designer Benjamin “how do we change the ritual of charging a power bank?”

I wanted people to not forget to charge their power bank and I wanted it to be as easy as throwing your keys on the table. The idea is that you just magnetically attach it while also charging your phone if you want. 

From a price point, you’re much lower than your competitors. Why have you chosen to keep costs low?

We’re not trying to be Apple prices. We want to be 30% less than Apple. Tech design has almost gone a little bit too expensive and it should be democratic. It should be for everyone. Good design should be accessible. We want to try and change that conversation and show people that you can still get good design like you do from Apple.

They would use about fifty engineers per product but we only work with great designers and we want to work with all the emerging talent, and that is something that excites me. 

by Katrina Mirpuri

To buy products from Nolii, visit their website here.

Feature image credit: Charlotte Hadden

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