Electronic and electrical equipments are used extensively in our day to day lives. Without these products, modern life would not be possible in (post-) industrialized and industrializing countries. With an increase in consumption, the challenge we face is the treatment of generated waste. ‘E-waste’ is the waste generated from unwanted and end-of-life electronic and electrical equipments which is also known as Waste from Electronic and Electrical Equipments (WEEE). Electronic goods contain plastics and metals which are hazardous to humans and the environment. Thus, treatment of ‘E-waste’ with the correct know-how and technology is essential.
India, one of the fastest growing economies, and with a population of over 1 billion, faces an increased rate of generation of ’E-waste’. A new report from ABI Research predicts that the market for recovering and recycling used electronics will reach $14.7 billion by 2015. Further, e-waste rules will become effective from May 2012, which will boost organized recycling in the country. The treatment of ‘E-waste’ for a healthy environment in the future is the need of the hour.
Recycling E-Waste, The EcoCentric Way
India generates approximately 1 million tonnes of e-waste annually, out of which, 90-95% is forwarded to the unorganized sector. The unorganized sector primarily includes scrap dealers who collect old electronic gadgets from individuals and big companies. Scrap dealers use manual methods to dismantle electronics employing women and children. It is important to educate them about the impact it has on the environment. This is the core idea of EcoCentric.
Operational since January 2011, EcoCentric works towards bridging this gap by offering solutions to responsible companies who want to discard their ‘E-waste’ in an eco-friendly manner. They offer advisory services. For recycling, they have an arrangement with one of the leading recyclers in the country. They help companies manage their e-waste by building an E-waste Management Framework.
Based out of Mumbai and Pune, they are a team of five people and have listed an SME based out of the two cities as clients. With a focus mainly on India currently, they have tie-ups with some of the most reputed NGOs as well, thereby taking their services to the rural market. One of the services they offer is repairing old electronics and forwarding it to NGOs as per client-requirements. This ensures that children and others get access to technology before it becomes obsolete.
Their vision is to create a chain of computer libraries from the e-waste that is forwarded by companies. Besides the advisory services, they are now in the process of setting up their own recycling facility.
Startingup and Initial Hurdles
After completing his Bachelor of Management Studies (BMS) from Narsee Monjee, Karan Thakkar worked with KPMG as a consultant in the Advisory vertical for three years. Once, when sitting in office, he was reading about the influx of E-book readers. Sometime in early 2010, Kindle’s popularity had started rising. He wondered what happened to these electronic gadgets once they became obsolete. Intuition, gut feeling whatever you may term it, he sensed an opportunity. He started reading about the life cycle of electronics.
“It’s a simple thing- either you consume virgin materials from the environment or recycle existing things. The crisis we are living in will sooner or later make recycling the only way out. So, I quit my job in May 2010 and travelled around the country to look closely at the current scrap dealer scenario,” says Karan, who partly self-funded and also raised funds from banks to start EcoCentric.
He faced many challenges, right from hiring talent in this new space to convincing people about the opportunities in waste recycling. Besides, India being a very price sensitive market, companies expect monetary returns for e-waste. “More so,” he adds, “E-waste is still very nascent in India. The most important thing for a start up is to have a clear vision. By now there are many who are ready with a plan or preparing to enter this industry. Since I don’t have an IT background, I had difficulty creating a clear road map as to where I want to see the company. Once I was clear, I started getting people on board who have helped us reach where we are today. Lack of awareness is the biggest challenge in a space like e-waste. But I am glad that the Government through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is taking very progressive steps to make this country sensitive towards Electronic waste management. At EcoCentric, it gives us immense satisfaction that we are creating a positive impact on the environment through recycling.”