This woman entrepreneur’s startup collects used cooking oil to convert into biodiesel
We are all aware that reusing cooking oil has harmful effects on health.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) announced in 2019 that restaurants or eateries will no longer be able to reuse cooking oil more than three times. The FSSAI has also stated that any cooking oil found to have total polar compounds of more than 25 percent cannot be “topped up with fresh oil”.
This was a welcome move that sought to curb the use of adulterated cooking oil in restaurants all over India. The question what could be done with the used oil prompted husband-wife duo Kirti and Sushil Vaishnav to start KNP Arises Green Energy.
The Delhi-based startup collects oil from FBOs (food business operators) so that it can be converted into biodiesel. It also offers a comprehensive range of environmental services that include helping companies with a supply of blended biodiesel, industrial tank cleaning, recycling all types of agricultural and blood waste, and a biogas anaerobic digestion facility, among others.
“When we came back to India after spending eight years in Dubai, we found food adulteration was a major issue that needed to be addressed. We noticed that the oil used for deep frying was never discarded from the cooking procedure, it was reused or sold to the local street vendors or to even major hoteliers. The health concerns prompted me to think about starting up in this direction,” explains Kirti.
Hailing from Bundi district in Rajasthan, Kirti and Sushil have experiences spanning 15 years in various industries, both in India and abroad.
Sushil has a BTech in food tech and an MBA in operations, while Kirti is an electronics engineer. Both have worked in the supply chain management and procurement sectors. They were joined by a friend Ravi Jain, who has BTech degree in food tech and an MBA in finance with over 15 years’ experience in corporates and incubating startups.
Energy of the future
Kirti believes green energy is the only sustainable energy of the future.
She points out that in India, only 0.1 percent of the total biofuel demand is being met because of scarcity of raw material, creating a huge demand and supply gap.
“This offers us opportunities for business. Our aim is to collect 60 lakh litres of oil every month, which will also help in reducing the carbon emission to the tune of over 12,000 MT. Currently, we are collecting waste cooking oil from 35 cities of India and have our own warehouses in Delhi, Jaipur, and Kolkata. We started our operation from Delhi because of the strong presence of FSSAI and market size,” says Kirti.
The company is also building a tech-enabled supply chain with the help of its mobile application. “We are also developing an IoT based container that will increase our collection capabilities and create a seamless flow of information, transparency and efficient supply chain for the collection. Our services give two-way benefits to food businesses who are discharging the oil with us - they are paid for the oil sold and the entire process is done with strict compliance with FSSAI and environment guidelines.” she adds.
The company started production of biodiesel but later realised that the industry suffers from a shortage of raw material, and so has moulded itself as a supplier for the biodiesel industry. Its clients are major biodiesel manufactures in the country, and its anaerobic digestion facility has the capacity for processing up to 60,000 tonnes of liquid food waste per year.
Revenue is generated by selling the used cooking oil. Bootstrapped so far, the founders invested Rs 1.1 crore with revenue for the first year being Rs 2 crore.
Getting on track
“Currently, such oil is either thrown into drains, when each litre of oil pollutes over 10,000 litres of water. Or, the oil is also sometimes sold to street food vendors, and this creates a huge health risk. With our service, water pollution and health hazards will be reduced. Also, in cities like Delhi, where air quality is the biggest concern, biodiesel gives 80 percent lower carbon emission, thus providing cleaner energy,” says Kirti, elaborating on the far-reaching impact of the company’s services.
The onset of the COVID-19 saw businesses being affected severely, with most restaurants and hotels closed because of the nationwide lockdown. How did this impact their venture?
“We have received some support from industries because of good sales in the retail sector. After COVID-19, we expect our business will bounce back because it has taught people the value of good health, which hopefully will result in higher discharge of oil and help us to grow. We still managed to grow by 20 percent in comparison with the previous year,” she says.
Its biggest success in this period, Kirti says, has been partnering with institutions like the Atal Innovation Centre (AIC), Banasthali Vidhyapeeth, and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI).
“In the short term, we are planning to raise funds so that we can expand our operations to 20 new cities and also set up our own biodiesel plant,” Kirti says.
Edited by Anju Narayanan