Why this second-time entrepreneur chose scrap collection and recycling to startupSnigdha Sinha
Chitiz Agarwal, 29, is an engineer-turned-entrepreneur from Pune. After having worked with IT giants such as Accenture and IBM, the entrepreneurial bug bit him. He says, “I was working as a software architect and played a large role in closing accounts across the globe. I knew I had the capability to startup and do this individually.” In 2013, Chitiz co-founded a Pune-based IT services firm Techila Solutions Pvt. Ltd. After the operations and revenue model became stable, the firm became a well-oiled machine and freed up Chitiz’s headspace. The young entrepreneur’s hunger for starting up wasn’t satiated.
In 2015, he founded Scrapos, a scrap collection startup that aims to do its bit for ‘Swachh Bharat’. However, the seeds of social entrepreneurship were sown long before he started Techila. He says, “I always wanted to do something socially conscious that would spread awareness. I know that our whole country can’t become clean in one go, but we have to start somewhere. I often saw many of my friends throwing away things like newspapers, beer bottles, and broken furniture as garbage.”
Leveraging his software skills, Chitiz worked on the SEO parameters and studied the market with the help of a survey company. He knew that if he was able to monetise ordinary waste, he would have a market. But isn’t that what the kabadiwaalas (scrap dealers) have been doing for ages? Chitiz quips,
The sector is extremely unorganised. Many residential societies do not allow scrap dealers to enter the premises. Many people have had a sour experience with kabadiwaalas, who do not agree to take all types of waste or do not give a fair price for the scrap or don’t weigh the scrap correctly.
The process is pretty straightforward:
- Customers submit an online request form to place a pickup order and pick a time slot that works for them. The customer can also input other details such as approximate weight and type of scrap while placing an order. This makes it easier for Scrapos to arrange an appropriate pickup vehicle. Users can request for pickup through phones or WhatsApp numbers listed on the website.
- Scrapos sends an employee to collect the scrap and pays the customer after weighing the scrap with the help of an electronic scale. The price for items is listed ensuring the customer is paid fairly. Chitiz says that the customers also have the option to donate the money they’ve earned to NGOs/cancer hospitals.
Chitiz adds that all the scrap dealers they have tied up with have been verified by the police and carry their IDs when visiting the customer. Residential societies have also agreed to grant these verified scrap collectors access to their premises. Scrapos has tied up with best-in-class recycling firms where the collected scrap is taken and recycled.
To spread this awareness and gain traction, Chitiz and the Scrapos team are marketing through various social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, and are also distributing pamphlets and advertising through print media.
Challenges and Competition
Chitiz says that since they started up, the response has been overwhelming. While Scrapos gets calls from households and small shops, there are many calls from small and medium scale industries that generate recyclable scrap.
Scrapos began operations in Mumbai and Delhi, and then expanded in the PCMC area in Pune. He adds, “Right now, we do not have the infrastructure or manpower to scale up and hence don’t take up those pickups. We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew. If we were to just cover all of Pune in the existing segment, we’d need at least 50 more employees. We need external funding to make that happen.”
Other than the need for more funds, Chitiz lists another challenge – to communicate the idea to scrap dealers and form tie-ups with them. Speaking about competition, he says, “Currently there is no competition in Pune. Also, we are collaborating with local scrap dealers. It’s win-win for all.”
What’s happening in the sector?
While there is no competition in Pune at the moment, there are a number of startups in other cities that have been working on a similar model and have seen great success. These include Bhopal-based Kabadiwaala, Bengaluru-based Binbag, Chennai-based Kabadiwalla Connect, and Delhi-based Kabadi Express and JunkArt. Chitiz says that what sets Scrapos apart is how he has leveraged his eight years of work experience in the IT industry and applied it to the unorganised sector. With the space of waste management and recycling on an upswing, there is an opportunity for a large aggregator in the space.
With Scrapos, at least some of our cities will be debris-free and look relatively clean. It is not that we’re doing something that hasn’t been done before, but the important thing is that we’re contributing to a cleaner and greener India. We’re not relying on someone else to come and clean our country, we’re being socially responsible with a stable model.
In the near future, he plans to start serving corporates and industries to expand his market reach. In the next five years, Chitiz says that Scrapos will be present in 10 major cities in India and become the one stop scrap collection centre.