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21-YO Entrepreneur Turns Waste From 160 Temples Into Beautiful Idols, Artefacts

Akash Singh, the 21-year-old founder of Energinee Innovations, recycles waste from temples in Delhi NCR to make eco-friendly idols.

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A self-power generating walking stick, a smart irrigation sprinkler, a wind harnessing machine are a few innovations by young Akash Singh from Uttar Pradesh. Hailing from a small village near Jewar in Uttar Pradesh, this 21-year-old has been an innovator since his school days.

“I am an avid observer and I try to find solutions to the problems or issues that I come across around me. It’s a pleasure to see my innovations helping people or a cause,” says the innovator turned social entrepreneur.

At the age of 19, Akash launched his startup, Energinee Innovations, to provide a solution to waste management. “We collect around 1800 kg to 3000 kg of ash waste from around 160 temples per month. These are turned into artefacts like showpieces, flower pots, pen holders, etc,” he claims.

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An innovator turned entrepreneur

Akash left his village in Jewar, Uttar Pradesh, after Class 10 and moved to Gurgaon to pursue his three year Civil Engineering diploma. But he was on a constant lookout for ideas for his innovations. That’s when he discovered the extent of water pollution caused by one of the temples that he often visits near Gurgaon.

“I used to visit a temple very often with my friends during my college days. But one day I came across a nearby lake, where they used to dump all the temple waste. Coconut husks, incense sticks, ashes, flowers, etc. were dumped into the lake. I also discovered that this has been the practice followed by several temples,” Akash tells The Better India.

“The temple waste deteriorated the water quality and affected the aquatic ecosystem. So I felt it needed a practical solution,” he adds.

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This realisation forced Akash to look for a solution and he ended up spending around a year researching into the matter looking for practical solutions. “After a lot of research, I understood that out of all the waste materials, it is the ash from the incense sticks that’s most harmful. These ashes contain chemicals like lead, Toluene, Benzene, Xylene etc that are harmful to us as well as aquatic animals. So, I came up with a plan to mitigate it from the water bodies,” says Akash.

Incense ash collecting bin placed by Akash Singh

He further explains, “I decided to collect these waste materials directly from temples by keeping bins over which people can light incense sticks and the ash gets collected beneath. It can also be used to dump other waste materials like coconut husks.”

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During his research, Akash who discovered the potential of ash as a binding material decided to recycle the collected ash into artefacts. “The collected ash is then refined through a process. The coconut husk will also be converted into ashes, which are mixed with water in a fixed proportion to make the artefacts,“ says Akash.

So, in 2018, he launched his enterprise along with co-founder Naresh Bhati. “Naresh was my cousin’s very creative friend, who had good management skills and was convinced with the idea. That is how we started the enterprise. He now handles product management and the creative team while I look after sales, marketing, research and development,” he adds.

Naresh Bhat and Akash Singh, founders of Energinee Innovations
Naresh Bhati and Akash Singh, founders of Energinee Innovations

Later, he took advice from the Atal Incubation Center of NITI Aayog to work with jail inmates, thereby helping them learn a new skill and find opportunities once they leave the prison. “We made a team at the Gautam Buddha Nagar Jail where we trained around 46 inmates. It helped them spend time more productively and to earn for their efforts. We also helped around 16 jail inmates find a job with different NGOs or organisations after being released from jail,” says Akash.

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“But in 2020, when the pandemic hit, we had to discontinue our work there due to the COVID constraints,” he adds.

Even though the pandemic lulled the enterprise for a while, Akash formed a new team with a group of daily labourers.

“Currently, we have a small team of around 15 members from a slum area near Greater Noida. We identified those people who made handicrafts for a living and were struggling due to the pandemic. We trained them in making our products thereby helping them earn a living out of it,” explains Akash, who has also won several accolades from the government as well as several organisations for his endeavours.

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Idols made out of recycled temple waste
Idols made out of recycled temple waste

Energinee Innovations makes artefacts ranging from small showpieces to statues including idols of gods. Its products are priced at Rs 300 and go up to Rs 11,000.

“We now collect waste from around 160 temples in the Delhi NCR area and are planning to expand it further. Moreover, we are planning to try our hands at making products that are useful in our daily lives,” concludes Akash.

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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