“Since 2012, I have been working as a diving instructor in the Andaman islands. From day one, I saw a huge amount of plastic waste on the island. So, I decided that if I ever start a business, it would be something that doesn’t harm the environment,” Zorawar Purohit tells The Better India.
While working as a diving instructor, Zorawar doubled as a tour guide of sorts for the tourists enquiring about the island’s luxurious hotels. “During my training sessions, my patrons would always enquire about the best resort or good food available on the Island. It was then that I planned to build a getaway that provided good food and accommodation,” says the 31-year-old, adding, “But most of the construction on the island results in pollution, deforestation and other problems that affect the environment. So, I wanted my getaway to be different from others.”
He further shares, “In the 580-odd islands that make up the Andamans, there is no proper system for recycling plastic. This is how the idea for Outback Havelock was born.”
Roping in three of his friends, in 2017, Zorawar along with Akhil Verma, Aditya Verma and Rohit Pathak established Outback Havelock, an eco-friendly establishment which recycled 5,00,000 waste plastic bottles sourced from the island.
Making of the ‘recycled’ hotel
The group of friends researched on French architecture, which used plastic bottles as construction material that was reportedly sturdier.
Plastic bottles filled with sand and dust used as construction material are “more than 10 times stronger than brick and also water resistant”. With this goal in mind, they collected waste plastic bottles from different dumpyards in the Andamans and started the construction of their resort.
“Apart from the 5,00,000 plastic bottles, we also collected 500 kilograms of rubber waste for the construction. The bottles were used for the making of luxury rooms while the rubber was used to make the footpaths in the resort,” Zorawar says.
But creating a quaint getaway while recycling waste, smackdab in the middle of Havelock, was no mean feat. “We faced many difficulties, with the biggest being getting hands-on experience of building a hotel. Secondly, it was a challenge to convince the labourers to attend workshops on construction using waste plastic bottles. In comparison to other constructions, our’s took much more time. But the end result was good,” Zorawar says, adding, “Our resort has eight jungle view luxury rooms and a 60-seater cafe as well.”
The Outback Havelock has a total of nine employees. Though, the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns served a mean blow to the business. “The coronavirus pandemic has hit our business badly. Before the pandemic, we had over 80 tourists per day. We hope that in the coming days we will be able to welcome more tourists,” Akhil, 31, says, adding that they charge Rs 4,200 per day, which includes WiFi and meals. He further shares that the friends together had invested an amount of Rs 1 crore for the construction of the hotel, and presently the yearly turnover of the resort is Rs 1.5 crore.
Another positive impact of creating a hotel using waste was a spike in the interest of the locals about recycling. The founders share that many locals have been approaching the resort to learn about its construction. The Outback Havelock team welcomes their doubts and gives them tips on building their own constructions. The team tells me they also share blueprints of the construction of their resort with the locals for this purpose. “We always encourage others to adopt a similar approach as it saves the environment from more plastic waste, and also, because this kind of construction has more benefits than a regular construction,” Akhil adds.
The resort which is filled with banana plantations and coconut trees has another eye-grabbing aspect to it — its organic kitchen. “We use our organic kitchen garden products to cook for our customers. This ensures our food has the best taste and adds richness in flavour to the local cuisine we serve. We also prepare bread and pizza bases here,” Akhil says.
There are a few things to keep in mind before travelling to the Andamans. Aditya says, “After reaching the Port Blair airport its a two hour journey to Havelock via ferry. Usually, the visitors inform us about their flight timings, so we arrange a ferry for them accordingly. Once the visitor reaches Havelock, we provide a pick-up cab service as well to bring them to our resort. It is about a 15-minute car ride.”
The 32- year-old adds, “Though, without a confirmation ferry ticket in the Andaman Islands, visitors will not be able to roam the islands. Apart from a private ferry, a government ferry is also available for a cheaper rate. These are older vessels which will need you to book via direct agents. Private ones have newer vessels, they’re faster and also have online bookings.”
The friends are now working on a new project in Port Blair. “Compared to Outback Havelock, our new project won’t just be a cafe and resort but more on the lines of a farm business model,” Aditya says and adds, “This property will also be created using waste from the vicinity. But more on that after we launch in 2022.”
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)