How this Mumbai-based duo's startup is solving waste management using tech

How this Mumbai-based duo's startup is solving waste management using tech

Tuesday February 05, 2019,

5 min Read

Founders of startup RaddiConnect believe that garbage is everyone’s problem, and each stakeholder should be equally responsible for solving waste management.

Rahul Nainani of RaddiConnect conducts a workshop for corporate employees.

Maharashtra generated 82.38 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of municipal solid waste in 2018, the highest in the country, said media reports. Of that, Mumbai produces 27.37 lakh MT per year, a third of the state’s total. It has been estimated that by 2030, India will need a landfill the size of Bengaluru if the current waste management scenario does not improve.

These drastic figures led Rahul Nainani and Gurashish Sahni – graduates in accounting and financing, and management respectively - to give up lucrative careers and turn to the unglamorous world of waste management in Mumbai.

Rahul explains, “When we began our ground research in 2014, the ecosystem was in disarray. It involved several players, from garbage collectors to the municipal workers, from raddiwalas (scrap dealers) to rag pickers. Worldwide reports on mounting wastes warned of an imminent catastrophe, but they continued to work at their own pace and without much interaction."

The duo realised that a robust waste management model cannot be one-directional. There was a need to build a circular system where the scrap is recycled and sent back into the industry.

That’s what RaddiConnect set out to do.

RaddiConnect’s Gurashish Sahni conducts a survey with scrap dealers in Mumbai

Also read: Plastics, pollution and public participation: these startups are changing things for the better  

From B2C to B2G and B2B

A humble business-to-consumers (B2C) startup, RaddiConnect was launched in 2015. It was a data-led platform for scrap dealers in Mumbai’s residential suburbs of Bandra, Khar and Santa Cruz. The startup provided free doorstep pickup for household recyclable wastes like newspapers, plastic containers, electronics and so on.

“Our idea was to develop an ‘Uber-like platform’ to act as an aggregator for raddiwalas and standardise their rates and services. We gave them electronic scales, identity cards and ensured that their business documents are in order. We also developed a system with scrap recovering facilities to reduce wastage and to complete the loop,” the duo explain.

Introducing a structure to the informal waste management market was the need of the hour and soon, about 200 raddiwalas across Mumbai were working with RaddiConnect.

By 2017, RaddiConnect had evolved and was working with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (business-to-government or B2G) and multiple corporates (business-to-business or B2B). The Centre’s Solid Waste Management Rules updated in 2016 and acted as a game-changer that helped them move beyond scrap and dry waste management.

“We got involved in wet waste composting, supporting Corporate Social Responsibility for companies, leading training sessions at educational institutes – all the aspects of waste management from awareness to implementation. We also built an on-site composting plant of 500 kg capacity at Khar Gymkhana, a sports and cultural hub in Mumbai. At present, we work with about 100 businesses across sectors,” say the founders.
waste management
Kapil Vaishnav, a raddiwala from Mumbai’s upscale suburb of Bandra, demonstrates how the digital weighing scales work. Photo credit: Nitya Kaushik

Also read: What it will take for startups to spearhead innovation to transform urban India 

Barter system

RaddiConnect’s unique transaction initiatives, like trash-based fundraising and barter system, have been appreciated by customers and scrap dealers alike. The trash-based fundraising model gives their residential customers the choice to donate their earnings from scrap sales for a cause.

These funds are forwarded to one of their four non-profit partners - Helping Hands Foundation, Make a Difference, St. Catherine of Siena School and Orphanage and World for All Foundation. Not only can a client choose a non-profit to support, but they also get annual donation certificates and tax rebates.

The barter system is a big hit among the startup’s corporate clients. Corporates are offered stationary made with recycled paper in exchange for their paper waste. For scrap dealers, this cashless and internet of things (IoT)-based system has simplified the process.

Kapil Vaishnav, a dealer from Perry Cross Road, Bandra, explains, “Now, the transparent process of our transactions leaves no room for bargaining. We have been provided with fuss-free digital scales, precise receipts are offered and since the customer has already identified the payment method and choice, we simply have to pick up the waste.”

The waste management market

India’s waste management market is expected to be worth US$ 13.62 billion by 2025, according to a report by Market research company NOVONOUS.

“Clearly, this colossal threat also comes with an opportunity. Today, we require multiple players in this market. Collaboration is key to solve the solid waste problem in India,” says Nainani.

He adds, “To find solutions, players across geographies need to come on a level platform. Garbage is everybody’s problem, and each stakeholder is equally responsible for solving it.”

The duo aims to give a standard operating model with a tech-based platform for infrastructure. “We want to become enablers for smaller players and non-governmental organisations, by offering the technical know-how and leveraging funds from the corporate sectors,” says Nainani.

According to the co-founder, the private sector’s involvement in waste management is still at a very nascent stage in India. “In India, the waste management sector, though informal, is highly specialised. There is a battery of workforce from household garbage pickers to rag pickers, even at the landfill sites. Each one of them has a role to play and it is best to involve them in the process,” he adds. 

RaddiConnect is one of the 10 entrepreneurs participating in TheCityFix Labs accelerator programme.

The writer, Nitya Kaushik (@itsnotnit), is part of the WRI India communications team.