What do you do when a challenge looms over you? Whine? Or look for a solution? Whine, and the problem controls you. Do the latter, and you control the problem.
Anurag Asati, an IT Engineer from Madhya Pradesh’s capital city, Bhopal, chose the latter.
Six years ago when Anurag was in his final year of his engineering, he was looking for a local scrap dealer or a kabadiwala to give away his books and paper assignments. He could not find any nearby.
This incident gave rise to several ‘What ifs’ and eventually gave birth to a startup.
My first thought was what if the service to sell scrap was just a phone call away, or there was an online platform like Uber where one could book a pick-up. I spoke to my classmates and professors who believed in my idea and in no time the thought took off, Anurag tells The Better India (TBI).
Anurag started his research and was startled to know how unorganised the waste management sector is, “Right from the rag pickers working informally in hazardous situations, to the lack of transparency to people being ignorant about the concept of waste segregation, there is a great deal of work that needs to be done in order to manage recyclable items.”
With some financial help from his family, Anurag and his professor cum mentor Kavindra Raghuwanshi founded The Kabadiwala in 2013.
The startup is an online avatar of local scrap dealers. All one has to do is schedule a visit online, and the team will visit the house, lift recyclable items including newspaper, plastic, metal, books, iron, etc. In return, the customer will get paid.
Buying products online is easy. Getting rid of them when it becomes useless/redundant/old, is not. You have two options – either sell it in a second-hand market online or call the kabadiwala to get rid of it. First, you have to find them, coordinate timings, and then haggle, says Anurag.
We have developed a platform which helps users to book a request in less than 2 seconds and schedule it as per their convenience, he adds.
In their bid to implement the three 3Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle, Anurag and Kavindra’s start-up collects items, segregates them and then sells them to the city-based recycling units.
However, with lack of experience and expertise in the field, the duo faced heavy losses.
The idea was practical, but our execution was not, so a few months later, we pulled down the shutter of our company, shares Anurag.
After completing his graduation, Anurag went on to work in IT companies, but his concern for finding a solution for scrap material never left him. He quit his job and reopened The Kabadiwala.
This time, Anurag and Kavindra marketed their services effectively. They collaborated with local scrap dealers, launched a mobile application and started an awareness drive.
Our first step was to create awareness. Our agenda was to tell people that scrap items have value. A used plastic bottle will fetch you Rs 1. One will never throw one rupee but will discard the bottle. This example was used in each of our awareness sessions, informs 27-year-old Anurag.
To spread awareness, The Kabadiwala team went from door-to-door in residential colonies and schools of the city. Schools were their primary target, and it worked, “Most of the inquiries came from parents who learnt about the startup from their children.”
The mobile application was launched to cater to the tech-savvy generation. However, the app is user-friendly for people not used to online services. It also gives them the option of a phone call and a website to place a request for a pickup. Both, the website and app have the per kilo rates of scrap items.
The Kabadiwala has also introduced a feature of live tracking for people to track their waste and where it goes.
Explaining the idea behind this feature, Anurag says, “Knowing that responsible waste management by people is helping the environment breathe better will motivate them to follow similar practices in the future.”
Once the scrap items are deposited at respective recycling units, the Kabadiwala sends its customers an environment report informing them about their contribution in numbers. For example, it tells people about the number of trees, the volume of water, oil and energy saved through the Kabadiwala.
Meanwhile, the scrap dealers in the team are given an electronic weighing machine and a vehicle to pick up the waste. The weighing scale ensures transparency allowing the customers to check the weight accurately and get a fair amount.
The Kabadiwala – A Win-Win Startup
Calling it a win-win situation for each of its stakeholders, Anurag says, “Customers, scrap dealers and recycling units benefit from all our transactions.”
The Kabadiwala, today, has a 50,000 plus customer base and 25 Kabadiwala teams spread across four cities – Bhopal, Indore, Aurangabad and Raipur.
The customers are happy with the services as they are not only earning money but are also getting a platform to be responsible citizens, “On time work and good behaviour with clients. Selling the scrap is easy. The Kabadiwala provides us environment-friendly service which is necessary for us and the future generations,” says Neeti Shukla from Bhopal.
As for the scrap dealers, they now have a stable income, “On average, a kabadiwala earns Rs 3,000-5000 per month in the scorching heat going from one house to another. Here, we have hired them on the payroll at Rs 10,000 per month apart from the incentives they get from time to time,” says Anurag.
The company is also setting some serious goals for the other companies to go eco-friendly.
Every month, The Kabadiwala handles 100 tonnes of waste that eventually comes back in the form of a new product post recycling. This has helped the company benefit the environment in multiple ways.
By not discarding the wastes in the landfill, the customers are saving space. Through recycling, the company has saved 10, 200 trees, 2.5 lakh litres of oil and 13.8 million litres of water.
The Kabadiwala is a business-to-business model, and the customers are paid via online means and they are not charged for the delivery. Last year, the company’s turnover was Rs 70 lakh.
Recently the startup received an investment of Rs 3 crore, and now the team is working on expanding to other cities as well. Their long term goal is to establish an online scrap dealing platform in 100 cities across the country.
Get in touch with The Kabadiwala here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)