Eco Wise – Organizing Solid Waste Management [Cleantech Startup]

Eco Wise is a single window service provider for managing solid waste – collection, segregation, transportation, recycling, treatment and land filling. Currently, company collects 100 Tons of waste every day in NCR region and claims to be the largest private operator in the space.

Below are parts of my discussions with the founder of Eco Wise, Mr. Manik Thapar.

Q: What made you venture into solid waste management?

A: Dirt spread all around, nobody paying attention to this problem and an economic opportunity were the key motivators.

Q: How is Eco Wise different from the traditional model of waste collection in the country?

A: We have given waste collection a professional structure and organization. Our workers are trained employees. We provide them with uniforms, place to stay, healthcare and none of them is below the age of 18.

clip_image002

Professional services are a big differentiator. We have a call center to cater to our customers. As value added services to corporate we help them monitor – how much waste they generate, analysis of waste quality and environmental impact they have created by using our services.

Q: How do you collect waste and how is it disposed?

A: Our workforce collects waste from various sources – industries, RWAs and municipalities using eco-friendly vehicles.

Currently, there is no segregation of waste at source in the country due to lack of regulations unlike the developed world. Collected waste is segregated by our workers into three parts– organic, recyclable and inert. Organic part is converted into compost at our premises, recyclables are sold to recycling companies and inert part goes to municipal landfills.

Q: What customer segments are you catering – industrial, housing, municipal?

Our key customers are corporate who don’t want to be seen as “Inconsiderate towards environment”. At times this motivation is driven by their own corporate / CSR goals. At times they are pressed by their overseas customers / partners to address solid waste properly.

RWAs, Hotels and Restaurants have not been large customers. They are used to selling their waste and awareness levels are low amongst majority. We need a large social and cultural shift, to cater to this segment.

Q: What is the revenue model?

A: We have three sources of revenue:

– Sale of compost

– Sale of recyclables

– Fee from corporate for disposing their waste

Q: Do regulations support what you are doing?

A: Regulations have started to come into picture but they are still not mature enough to address the problem.

Q: How big is the current operation and what is the overall opportunity?

A: We are a team of 150 people, collecting 100 Tons of waste every day in NCR region. Out of the waste collected – 60% is organic, 20% is recyclable and 20% is inert.

It is estimated, Delhi alone generates over 10,000 Tons per day of solid waste.

Q: There is a large opportunity of converting waste to energy. Few large players are targeting this opportunity. Do you also plan to enter the space?

A: Not immediately. I feel, India is not mature for waste to energy projects due to two reasons:

Firstly, quality of waste in India is not very good – it is low on carbon content. So existing technologies from west don’t work on that effectively. We have to add wood pallets to Indian waste, to make it rich in organic content. Also, economics are not favorable unless government supports.

Secondly, India needs to address problems at grass root level like organized waste collection, segregation of waste at source etc. before putting up investments in waste to energy projects.

Q: How did you fund the venture?

A: We started with our own funds and now company is organically funded.

Q: What are future plans of expansion?

A: We plan to go national gradually. Our next target is Goa. We are also in talks with few overseas companies for joint venture to access technology and capital.

I feel, Eco Wise has done a great job in organizing solid waste management against all odds – limited policies, lack of customer awareness, difficult operations and unorganized competition. Not only that, company is serving a large social problem by professionalizing rag picking. Know of more cleantstartups? Do let us know.