Let us wind back our clocks to school days. What was that our teachers told us about ‘Saving our Environment’? What were those lengthy essays we wrote on ‘Green Revolution’? Sure we have all the theoretical gyaan and yes, we do our bit to conserve energy and save ourselves the weekly guilt trips- but wouldn’t we want to walk that extra length if someone just showed us how our efforts would, in practical terms, ‘reap benefits’?Social Entrepreneur Kuldeep Dantewadia, co-founder of India's first portal to grade environmental activities - Reap Benefit, says yes. In conversation with Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory.in, Kuldeep shows us how his startup gives the ‘green’ signal to a better tomorrow!
Kuldeep, a startup is only as interesting as its entrepreneur. So before we talk about Reap Benefit, tell us something about the minds behind it..
Well, Surabh Saraf, my co-founder, had various research internships under his belt with respect to environment with TERI, NOMURA, IIM-B etc; He was also an environment consultant with Pyramid Power for a year after his graduation from Delhi College of Engineering. Besides, he has been a regular writer for e-zine viz. The Higher Taste & ISKCON Youth Forum Newsletters.
I was a quizzer in college and school. I graduated from Christ College Bangalore in 2009.The Environment Group’ and was involved with carbon footprint consultancy for clients like VOLVO IT, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board etc; I was also a participant of TATA Jagriti Yatra and was selected as a social Innovator by Starting Bloc Boston, as also being a delegate at the South Asian Youth Conference.
So that would be us!
And in a nutshell, what is your startup Reap Benefit all about?
So basically, Reap Benefit is a platform to educate, empower and “reward” students (Institutions: Schools & Universities) for taking everyday green actions through partnerships with municipalities, haulers, NGO’s and corporates. It empowers students to make a collective impact on the environment by increasing recycling, reducing energy consumption, waste generation & water usage and assisting institutions to act sustainably. Reap Benefit is a platform to monitor and implement practical activities and implementation of activities which will have a positive impact on our environment. We also provide a road map to schools and colleges who want to take a small step towards green - theoretically and practically.So how did this idea spring up in your mind?
The idea for our startup Reap Benefit came about when we saw the gap in the current educational institutions. Students know about going green but do not implement actions in their day to day life. We felt we needed to change the mindset of youngsters where in green actions become permanent actions and they take it forward in all walks of life.
As young entrepreneurs with such a vision - what initial hurdles did you face in the nascent stages?
The issues that we faced were of getting an office space, funding, and mentoring. These issues have been sorted out to some extent by now. We were initially facing troubles of marketing proposition of our idea, whether to charge institutions a fee or not etc. At the same time, it was coupled with pressures from home to do away with the venture and lead a stable life!
Did you fundraise to startup then? How did you tackle these monetary worries?
We tried to raise funds from different sources and till now have acquired revenues through our consulting assignments. We are definitely looking for funding to make our project sustainable.
What is your target audience? Isn’t roping in schools a tad more difficult than corporate houses?
Our main focus is the student community but now we have started looking at companies to do sensitisation programmes along with scientific studies. Roping schools is not that difficult because schools and colleges are open to going green in a systematic, green and quantifiable manner.
How has the feedback been so far?The student community as well as the corporates have been able to relate to various aspects of going green. Some of them are more empowered now and have made going green a part of their daily lives.
Are there other players in the market doing similar things?
Yes. There are different agencies like TERI, Centre for Science and Environment etc who are similarly working with academic institutions.
What is your USP? What differentiates you from similar players?
We’re trying to tackle alarming issues of global warming and climate change in a very innovative and practical way. By helping youngsters inculcate the right habits, we are wanting to bring an attitudinal change which would prevail in the future. Our website is the first of its kind in the country that showcases sustainability profiles of academic institutions and therefore would break the information barrier.
Since when are you operational and how big is your team as of now?
We have been operational since April. We have done corporate consulting from April 2010. Our team comprises two co-founders and a few interns. We are based out of Bangalore as of now but keep getting queries from colleges across India. We are seeking volunteers currently to work with us.
What are your greatest challenges and how do you prepare to muddle through them?
Our greatest challenge is to make the project self sustainable financially. We have been working on this aspect of Reap Benefit. To cope up with the problem we are planning to charge fee from the institutions that we are working with (As of now we are doing it for free)
Where and how do you see yourself going ‘bout this in times to come?
We would want to make Reap Benefit one of its kind listing the sustainability profiles of academic institutions. The target is of Indian universities initially. We, at Reap Benefit, want to make going green a part of our lifestyle. We want to convert green actions into permanent habits and thereby make going green a way of life!